Wednesday 24 February 2010

Robust Exchanges

The news lately has been filled with robust exchanges, which pleases me immensely. I imagine Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown playfully wrestling in a meadow until, ruby-cheeked and exhausted, they both fall down laughing and then hurry home for tea. It's probably because of robust health. I don't think I've ever had a robust exchange myself: the phrase is as much a euphemism as "full and frank discussions" or "performed a sex act on".

Speaking of which, bully, before taking on its modern sense of "being angry with yourself" used to mean lover. Prostitutes used to have a "bully" to look after them so the phrase passed over to mean pimp and then violent and intimidating person. I don't know why but this origin popped into my head when I heard Peter Mandelson say that he was taking it "like a man"*.

On the subject of "unleashing the forces of Hell" (non-British readers should look at this):

But wherefore thou alone? wherefore with thee
Came not all Hell broke loose?

Is from the fourth book of Paradise Lost and is the origin of the phrase "all Hell broke loose". It's also what Alistair Darling asked Gordon Brown in a one-on-one meeting.

The cabinet meets to discuss election stategy (Alistair Darling in white. Ed Balls bottom right)

*The old, positive sense of bully is preserved in the phrase "Bully for you."

I know that this utterly exceeds the remit of Inky Fool, but Darling's comment "Frankly, my best answer for them is, I'm still here, one of them is not."  reminded me irresistibly of this hidden camera footage of when Damian McBride, Charlie Wheelan and Ed Balls were sent by Gordon Brown to pick up Darling from the train station.


  1. Isn't "unleash hell" a quote from the film Gladiator?

    Is there a link to Shakespeare's "let slip the dogs of war"?

  2. Don't knock robust exchanges, Dogberry. It is a very useful phrase in my profession.