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.