Hackneyed expressions…

Hackneyed expressions – rolling hills; washing down food; green and pleasant land; enough is enough; incredible/incredibly; up and down the country; home sweet home; to be honest; fundamentally flawed; hive of activity; haven for wildlife; and the rest.

Washing down their food (yuk)

Some authors are addicted to the cliché of ‘washing down’ their food, usually with alcohol, as if their oesophagus is a sluice gate for masticated food particles.No doubt they ‘wash down’ their cars and drains with buckets of water, but do they really enjoy their food so little that they ‘wash it down’? Imagine if they used ‘swill it down’, which is virtually the same idea.Restaurant critics and travel writers are the chief offenders. Their fresh examples abound, like reindeer droppings in the winter snow:

  • Foolishly I washed it all down with many additional draughts of beer. (Bill Bryson, Notes from a Small Island, Daily Mail, 16 Aug 2016)
  • To gauge how far she [Elizabeth David], and we, had come, consider the typical supper she recollected sitting down to in the mid-1930s – ‘three sardines on bits of toast, one very tired sponge cake, two digestive biscuits’, all washed down by ‘tepid tea’ and interspersed with cigarettes. (Jenny Johnson, Daily Mail, 8 July 2016)
  • The coolest woman I have ever had the terror of breaking bread with… ordered steak, chips, tarte tatin and Epoisses, washed down with champagne for dinner at the Ritz, each element receiving only the most cursory acknowledgment. (Hannah Betts, Times, 8 Nov 2016)
  • The Randolph even forgot to serve a cup of tea to wash down the sorry affair. (Andrew Elson, Times, 18 Oct 2016)
  • Glued to the television, The Donald devoured hamburgers washed down with Diet Coke… (Toby Harnden, Sunday Times, 13 Nov 2016)
  • My spaghetti ain’t courgetti – and though I try my best to be a sugar-free zone, the occasional scoop of ice cream does, I’m ashamed to say, find its way into my gullet. Washed down, more often than not, with a nice glass of wine. (Sarah Vine,Daily Mail, 12 June 2016)
  • Visitors to Israel might one day have a chance to snack on fruits that were available during Christ’s time, and wash them down with a biblical-era beer. (Gregg Carlstrom, Times, 13 June 2016)
  • …light insalata caprese (mozzarella, tomato and basil salad) and calorific torta caprese (almond and chocolate cake)…Wash it down with limoncello (lemon liqueur). (Lonely Planet website, 2016)


Rolling hills

It seems that few articles about the countryside are complete without that dire cliché ‘rolling hills’ and its many egregious variations, eg:

  • The rolling hills and mountains are as verdant and fertile as any of the Latin poet Virgil’s descriptions… (Victoria Hislop, Daily Mail, 4 Sept 2016)
  • That home [owned by opera singer Daniela Dessi] was a beautiful house tucked among the rolling Franciacorta vineyards near Genoa. (Times obituary, 29 Aug 2016)
  • The same goes for much of northern Scotland, for the rolling hills around Rhydowen in the county of Ceredigion… (Times editorial, 18 July 2016)

There’s also been an epidemic of rolling hills on the broadcast media, particularly one of the BBC’s most popular programmes, Countryfile. Thus is the virus spread!


Beyond belief: incredible/incredibly

Few radio and TV interviews run for more than 30 seconds before some gushing promoter of their own cause claims that something ‘incredible’ has ‘incredibly’ occurred. The latest to stretch our incredulity was Amanda Berry, chief executive of BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts), on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on 9 Jan 2018 at 8.40am (in case you want to catch the whole joyous interview on i-player). This queen of luvviedom’s four-minute interview with John Humphrys included seven truly incredible incredibles:

  • The British did incredibly well.
  • Giving them an incredible promotion.
  • Paddington has done incredibly well.
  • Everything’s moving incredibly quickly.
  • Things are moving and changing incredibly fast.
  • Passionate but incredibly thoughtful.
  • Incredibly talented people.

Of course, ‘incredible’ means something is so astonishing it cannot be believed. Incredibly, Ms Berry has been at BAFTA for 19 years. Quite incredibly, she told the Daily Telegraph in 2013: ‘I do a silly thing when I first wake up, which is to turn my BlackBerry on and lose half an hour going through emails. I don’t think it is a very efficient use of my time – I should ignore them and go to the office half an hour earlier. I take an absolute age in the shower, partly because I wash my hair every day, but also because that is when I do my best thinking…I make sure I always have things in the fridge and try to eat properly when I get home because there is not a huge amount of me so I get very skinny very quickly. I may unwind in a bath filled with Aromatherapy Associates Deep Relax oil.’

A shower, a meal and a bath on most days. How absolutely incredible is that?