Friday, September 23, 2011

A tonic

Years ago, before the onslaught of truth-in-advertising-standards, Britain's elderly, when in need of a tonic, were tempted by advertising for a very popular fortified wine that promised, or at least implied, that a tipple of the sweet sherry-like substance drunk on a daily basis, would be fortifying for the nerves.

In that sentence I purposely used a phrase that in weaker moments can drive me to needing a tonic - in my case a Manhattan. "On a daily basis," is a construction, like "on a regular basis" that makes me grind my teeth. WTF is wrong with good old-fashioned "daily" or "regularly?" Why use four words when one suffices? "Double-check" is another, though, having once worked for someone whose default was "doublecheck," there may be more than a little prejudice about that particular phrase. "My fine china and crystal" - to my ear elided as "myfinechinaandcrystal" is enough to make me reach for my hip flask if not my revolver.

Having recently spent a few days with my fellow-original-countrymen, I know, believe me, how heinously intrusive stock phrases can be. Brits use "pop" all the time -  as in "I'll just pop down to the slaughter-house" or "be a lamb, and just pop this in the oven" - pop, pop, pop, all over the damned place! On the subject of "pop", could we just stop using the phrase "pop of color?" Please?

I caught myself using what, around here, is a typical response when asked how one is. "I'm good," said I to my mother-in-law when asked how I had been. Of course, what I meant was that I had been well - the moral aspects of my character having nothing to do with it at all, at least to me.


Our fine china and crystal? Wedgwood and Yeoward, of course. Which reminds me, I need to pop the dinner in the oven, and before the neighbours pop in for a drink, the Celt has his orders to pop into the supermarket for things we need on a daily basis, and I'll need to pop into the bathroom to freshen up, but first, let me just double-check the spelling and I'll click "post" and pop this into blogosphere.


I found these pictures of a dining room by William Hodgins in the same batch of clippings the photographs of Arthur Smith's house came from. I'd had these photographs since 1983 and the room with its delicious combination of dark wooden table surrounded by white-painted chairs and flanked by bookshelves seems as fresh and inviting today as it did nearly thirty years ago. A tonic indeed.

Photographs by Peter Vitale accompanying text written by Francis Levy for Architectural Digest, May 1983.

14 comments:

  1. The fauteuils beautifully illustrate the practice (and I hope you do not consider it a conceit, Blue) that I adhere to when reupholstering -- using a simple check on the backside (rather than a more expensive fabric because the chair would have been kept at the wall in the 18th century when not being used). Besides, it is a way of introducing a subtle pattern in a neutral scheme. Bill Hodgins is an Albert Hadley graduate, as you can tell.

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  2. Oh my oh my: the nautilus candlesticks give me a shiver of pleasure. Beautiful.

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  3. The Devoted Classicist, thank you. I think the practice of using a simple check on the back of such chairs is splendid. The original reason might be no more, but the beauty remains. Mr Hodgins' dining room is one of my all-time favourite rooms and the rest of the house is equally welcoming. Someday I shall post about it.

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  4. Daniel James Shigo, thank you. Aren't they glorious? The whole room gives a shiver of delight.

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  5. I like know what you mean. Innit?

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  6. You are a deliciously curmudgeonly stitch, and I adore you. It is always such a pleasure to come across such a brilliant, and brilliantly amusing fellow traveler, maddened by such things, as I am. I roared with laughter. My particular bete noir is "free gift," which has blessedly receded in recent years. And yes, the Hodgins Dr is divine, and so unlike most of what I've seen of his more recent work. Moodier, richer, and more burnished. Thank you for your delicious rant!

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  7. If I hadn't double-checked the table, I'd have seen the snails! Switching back to single-check mode now.

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  8. Thank you for a brilliant post. Please, no more "pop of color," and while we're at it, no more "a touch of..." either. Love your blog.

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  9. Terry, thank you. Double-check, to me, is almost as bad as that double-handed scraping-the-air gesture people make when signaling they're quoting - air-quotes, I think it's called.

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  10. Reggie, thank you. A good rant can be cathartic and I try to have at least one a week! Yes, "free gift" - almost as irritating as "private residence." Mealy-mouthed twaddle, all of it.

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  11. Jennings and Gates, thank you. I agree about the "a touch of ..." There are many of these irritating phrases - see Reggie Darling's comment above - and another of my favorites is "sneak peek." That one really does make me wince!

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  12. All I can add is that moments like these are a "total disaster.''

    ps my word verification: blymigy

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  13. Home before dark, quite! "Total disaster." How about "very unique?"

    Blymigy - sounds itchy, don't you think?

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  14. I just have to "pop" out a thought or two...

    Buzz words and phrases endlessly amuse me. Why do people repeat them? Is it some kind of ancient bonding social process which we use to reinforce clanning? Or are we just unimaginative?

    And dining rooms with bookshelves are my idea of the best possible space for a marvelous dinner party. When, in the middle of a heated argument as to the accuracy of this or that, one can simply pop back in one's chair, grab a volume and do a double check of the facts.

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