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Books: Amazing rise of the catchphrase culture; CASSELL'S DICTIONARY OF CATCHPHRASES NIGEL REES, (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, pounds 9.99.


WE live in an accelerating world of fast food, fast women, fast times.

Even our language has become brash and brittle, with long-winded pontification replaced by shard-sharp sentences. Teenagers squirt out tart text messages, while politicians hide behind polished sound-bites and dull slogans.

Even comedy programmes, such as The Fast Show and Little Britain, keep the quips clipped.

Catchphrases such as ``Yeah I know'' and ``Yeah but, no but'' permeate the culture.

That's why Cassell's Dictionary Of Catchphrases is sure to become an indispensable item on any cultivated cove's book shelf, unearthing the lineage for all your favourite lines.

Thebookeven claims to have discovered the roots of that curious Brummie phrase, Wallop Mrs CoxDictionary editor, Nigel Rees, controversially states its origins may not lie in the West Midlands - but Australia.

Apparently wallop is a word originating in Oz meaning beer, or any other type of alcohol.

The complete phrase was first used as an alternative to ``Cheers!'' or ``Bottoms up!'' Later, its use became more general, evolving to mean ``Stone me!'' or ``Cor blimey!''

Birmingham might have to share the glory that is Wallop Mrs Cox, but ``gone for a Burton'' is a nifty line which definitely had a Midlands origin.

The phrase was originally used by the RAFduringWorldWar II. It described the fate of missing flyers, who'd gone for a drink, i.e. were IN the drink, or fallen into the sea.

However, the curious coinage came about because of a 1930s advertising slogan - Gone for a Burton - which promoted Burton's Bass beer, brewed in Burton-on-TrentThe dictionary provides a wealth of fascinating facts of this order.

For instance, the phrase `sick as a parrot' might now be a tired old line, trotted out by footballers attempting to explain feelings of disgust after losing a match.

But have you ever wondered why a parrot should be sick?

It's unlikely many soccer stars realise their words are probably linked to an outbreak of deaths in West Africa back in 1973. Deaths caused by psittacosis... or parrot fever as it's sometimes known.

What is surprising is how new to the language many phrases are.

For instance, `It ain't over `till the fat lady sings' was originally a comment made by an American journalist less than 30 years ago.

However, there are a few cliche comments that have roots going back hundreds of years.

As you would expect, many originated with that febrile phrase factory from the Midlands, William Shakespeare.

Another regular source was the Bible`How are the mighty fallen!' is a quotation taken from the book of Samuel.

Others began with a specific intention, which later became more general.

`Flavour of the month' was originally used in 1940s America to advertise ice cream. Promoters of the dairy product wanted to encourage customers to try a greater range of their icy snacks. So each month a different flavour was promoted.

Now it has become an idiom for any any craze or person the public is likely to become weary of before long.

Getting quickly bored is not something that is likely to happen with this excellent book.

It's the kind of quirky volume you'll pick up to browse for a brisk two minutes. Two hours later you'll still be perusing with real pleasure.

Or - to dust down a much used catchphrase - you won't be able to put it down


YEAH I KNOW; I WANT THE ONE: Matt Lucas and David Walliams of Little Britain as Lou and Andy; I WANT THAT ONE: the catchphrase kings Matt Lucas and David Walliams
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Apr 10, 2005
Previous Article:GOLF: BROAD SMILES; Shock prediction rings true as Paul regains winning feeling.

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