Zo with the Flo

I had high hopes when I engaged issues recently around a Zoe Williams article in the Guardian interrogating issues around notions of rape in popular culture. And Zoe — what a thinker! — nearly fulfilled those hopes. I nearly had another scintillating sample for my award-winning “Oh My Guardian” series. This is nearly a perfect opening for a sentence of echt Guardianese:

In terms of narrative tropes…

But it should of course have been:

In terms of core narrative tropes…

So near — and yet so far. Still, “In terms of narrative tropes” is pretty darn good, worthy of the Great Gary himself. And it prompted me to interrogate issues around one of the core linguistic enigmas of our day. Here are two graphs from Google nGrams:

In terms of (UK English)

In terms of (US English)

What on earth is going on? Why have ITO usage metrics continued to rise in British English while peaking and falling in American English? This hasn’t happened with other core items of progressive English, like “issues around”:

Issues around (UK English)

Issues around (US English)

And “notions of authenticity”:

Notions of authenticity (UK English)

Notions of authenticity (US English)

And “engagement with” (in its progressive sense):

Engagement with (UK English)

Engagement with (US English)

If those keyly core items of Progressivese are “spiking” so healthily on both sides of the Atlantic, why is the even keylier corer “in terms of” not doing so? At least, I would say ITO is keylier corer, but does the ITO fall in America suggest that it isn’t?

Maybe not. One possibility is that “in terms of” has been depreciated in an influential (and anti-progressive) American manual of style that hasn’t been influential in the UK. However, American speakers have failed to see that the same grounds for rejection apply to “issues around” and so on.

But it’s hard to see why American progressive would take any notice of sensible advice about rejecting ITO. It’s also hard to see why the American drop in “in terms of” shouldn’t have influenced the UK even if this hypothetical style-manual (or arbiter) isn’t influential in the UK.

Something mysterious is going on and more research is plainly needed.

Previously pre-posted:

Septics vs Dirties
Get Your Tox Off
Guardianistas — all posts referencizing this core progressive demographic and their glossocentric performativity

Performativizing Papyrocentricity #53

Papyrocentric Performativity Presents:

Pocket to LaroussiaLarousse de Poche (Librarie Larousse 1954)

Translated to HeavenLes Hommes Volants, Valerie Moolman, trans. Madeleine Astorkia (Time-Life Books 1981)

The Eyes of the Infinite MindFicciones, Jorge Luis Borges

Caught by the FurzeFrancis Walker’s Aphids, John P. Doncaster (British Museum 1961)

Commit to CrunchMaverick Munch: Selecting a Sinisterly Savory Snack to Reinforce Your Rhizomatically Radical Reading, Will Self (TransVisceral Books 2016)

Or Read a Review at Random: RaRaR

Performativizing Papyrocentricity #50

Papyrocentric Performativity Presents:

Life LocomotesRestless Creatures: The Story of Life in Ten Movements, Matt Wilkinson (Icon 2016)

Heart of the MotherJourney to the Centre of the Earth: A Scientific Exploration into the Heart of Our Planet, David Whitehouse (Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2015)

LepidopterobibliophiliaBritish Butterflies: A History in Books, David Dunbar (The British Library 2012)

Minimal Manual – Georgisch Wörterbuch, Michael Jelden (Buske 2016)

Or Read a Review at Random: RaRaR

Performativizing Papyrocentricity #47

Papyrocentric Performativity Presents:

The Sting’s the Thing – A Sting in the Tale, Dave Goulson (Jonathan Cape 2013)

Two Heads, Two TonguesExcuse my French! Fluent Français without the Faux Pas, Rachel Best and Jean-Christophe Van Waes (Kyle Books 2013)

Marred MoonVoid Moon, Michael Connelly (2000)

’Vile VibesIn Plain Sight: The Life and Lies of Jimmy Savile, Dan Davies (Quercus 2014)

One-Stop Chop-ShopToxic Trannies from Kastration Kamp 23: A Sinister Symposium of Academic Assholes Shamelessly Shmoog the Filthiest Films in Cess-Cinema, Dr Miriam B. Stimbers, Dr Samuel P. Salatta, et al (TransToxic Texts 2016)

Or Read a Review at Random: RaRaR

Don’t Do Dot…

It’s a mistake to think that Guardianese, the optimal dialect of keyly committed core components of the counter-cultural community, mandates optionizing on a permanent basis for the pretentious and polysyllabic. Yes, Guardianistas are addicted to phrases like “in terms of” and “prior to”, but they also like urgently throbbing monosyllables like “key”, “core” and “spike”.

These are unnatural words, taken from headlines, not from normal English. They reveal an important truth: simplicity can be pretentious too. The two aspects of Guardianese come together in phrases like “key indicator” and “core metric”. I would say that “vital sign” and “important statistic” are better and more natural English, but you can’t tell that by counting syllables.

And sometimes Guardianese doesn’t use any syllables at all…  Guardianistas also like the stylistic trick of trailing dots. I find it cheap and irritating, so I’m glad that one of my favourite writers thought the same long ago. In his essay “Stories I Have Tried to Write”, M.R. James (1862-1936) said this:

In parenthesis, many common objects may be made the vehicles of retribution, and where retribution is not called for, of malice. Be careful how you handle the packet you pick up in the carriage-drive, particularly if it contains nail parings and hair. Do not, in any case, bring it into the house. It may not be alone… (Dots are believed by many writers of our day to be a good substitute for effective writing. They are certainly an easy one. Let us have a few more……) (“Stories I Have Tried To Write”, 1929)

In short: Don’t do dot…

Elsewhere other-engageable:

Titus Graun
Reds under the Thread


V. disappointed by China Miéville on BBC Radio 4’s Book Club (Sunday 1st November). It took him eight minutes to say “in terms of”.

Metricizing Michael…

All right-thinking folk are agreed that the Peckham-based author and visionary Michael Moorcock is a core colossus of the counter-culture. As the Guardian put it in 2007, he’s “the incendiary keystone of the visionary vortex that crystallized around New Worlds magazine in the 1960s, sparking a transgressive tornado that has sculpted paradigm-defying narratives of mutant sexuality, psychology and politics on an almost daily basis for over fifty years.”

But how often have keyly committed components of the Moorcock-fan community wished they had some objective mode of metricizing the coreness of the colossusness of his counter-culturality?

Well, the wait is over:

site:http://www.multiverse.org/ “in terms of”

About 4,910 results (0.56 seconds)

• in terms of sci-fi recommendations, I gotta go — Moorcock’s
• They’re really rebellious in terms of gender, in terms of sex, in terms of politics, the portrayal of society and race, and I really want that to be …
• In terms of games I am rediscovering Zelda: Majora’s Mask with updated graphics and sound.
• … and to describe such elements in terms of Good and Evil seems (as I hope I demonstrate) a rather useless way of looking at our problems.
• We’ve reached a point, in this new century, that can be identified as both technologically and sociologically, futuristic, even in terms of the very recent past and …
• I’m wondering about stillborn-siblings in terms of esoterica: are they the next sibling born after the stillbirth, making a short appearance (i.e. is …
• I can say I’ve had one good experience with a press release distribution service, in terms of acquiring reviews.
• In terms of chronology, however, it would have to fit in somewhere between the novels The Fortress of the Pearl and The Sailor on the Seas of [Fate]

Elsewhere other-posted:


Performativizing Papyrocentricity #36

Papyrocentric Performativity Presents:

Tormenting the TongueGeorgian Dictionary and Phrasebook, Nicholas Awde and Thea Khitarishvili (Hippocrene Books 2011)

Roc and RawlRise of the Super Furry Animals, Ric Rawlins (The Friday Project 2015)

Or Read a Review at Random: RaRaR

Performativizing Papyrocentricity #31

Papyrocentric Performativity Presents:

Nor Severn ShoreThe Poems of A.E. Housman, edited by Archie Burnett (Clarendon Press 1997) (posted @ Overlord of the Über-Feral)

Knight and ClayThe Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code and the Uncovering of a Lost Civilisation, Margalit Fox (Profile Books 2013)

Goal God GuideThe Secret Footballer’s Guide to the Modern Game: Tips and Tactics from the Ultimate Insider, The Secret Footballer (Guardian Books 2014)

Or Read a Review at Random: RaRaR


Poem XLIII of Housman’s More Poems (1936) runs like this:

I wake from dreams and turning
My vision on the height
I scan the beacons burning
About the fields of night.

Each in its steadfast station
Inflaming heaven they flare;
They sign with conflagration
The empty moors of air.

The signal-fires of warning
They blaze, but none regard;
And on through night to morning
The world runs ruinward. (MP, XLIII)

In his commentary on the poem, the Housman scholar Archie Burnett traces a parallel with these lines from Lucretius: …multosque per annos | sustenata ruet moles et machina mundi – “…and the mass and fabric of the world, upheld through many years, shall crash into ruins” (De Rerum Natura, V 95-6).

I like the phrase moles et machina mundi, “mass and fabric of the world”, but I didn’t understand the translation fully. I investigated and discovered that the Latin word machina, though taken from Doric Greek μαχανα, makhana, “mechanical device”,* developed an additional meaning of “frame” or “body”. So Latin has deus ex machina, “god from the machine”, with one meaning, and machina mundi, “fabric of the world”, with another.

This seems to make machina a good word to expand the motto of this bijou bloguette. At the moment, the motto is this:

• Mathematica (v) • Magistra (iij) • Mundi (ij) •

That means “Mathematics is Mistress of the World”. Now try this:

• Mathematica (v) • Machina (iij) • Mundi (ij) •

The syllabification doesn’t change, but now I assume that the central word is pleasingly ambiguous and the motto means variously “Mathematics is Mechanism of the World”, the “Fabric of the World”, the “Engine of the World”, the “Body of the World”, and so on.

In addition, all the letters of Machina are found in Mathematica and Mundi, so the words on left and right almost act as a matrix, generating what appears between them.

There are further possibilities, blending magistra and machina:

• Mathematica (v) • Machistra (iij) • Mundi (ij) •

• Mathematica (v) • Magina (iij) • Mundi (ij) •

*In Attic Greek, it’s μηχανη, mēkhanē, whence “mechanical”, etc.