If you follow my blog you might recall I extolled the virtues of Captain Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1811) which has a glorious rundown of Georgian/Regency slang which is invaluable for those of us writing in that period. It’s also a bit of a laugh, trotting out phrases for concepts we did not realise we needed phrases for, such as: A flying pasty is a turd wrapped in newspaper and thrown over your neighbour’s wall.) Maybe that was a thing in 1811. You can download Captain Grose from Project Gutenberg for free or buy a print copy from Amazon.
Yes, project Gutenberg contains some gems.
And then there’s this, written in 1917:
Fifteen Thousand Useful Phrases – A Practical Handbook Of Pertinent Expressions, Striking Similes, Literary, Commercial, Conversational, And Oratorical Terms, For The Embellishment Of Speech And Literature, And The Improvement Of The Vocabulary Of Those Persons Who Read, Write, And Speak English – by Grenville Kleiser (1868 – 1953)
Born in Toronto, Kleiser wrote a multitude of self-help books on writing and public speaking, but Fifteen Thousand Useful Phrases is probably the pinnacle of his achievement I often come across inexperienced writers who seem to have swallowed a thesaurus and never use a simple word where a complicated word is available.
If you’re into purple prose then Kleiser is for you. If you want to remind yourself of what to avoid, I recommend taking a look at this. The introduction says: In the present volume Mr. Kleiser furnishes an additional and an exceptional aid for those who would have a mint of phrases at their command from which to draw when in need of the golden mean for expressing thought.
Useful Phrases / Significant Phrases / Felicitous Phrases / Inpressive Phrases / Prepositional Phrases / Business Phrases / Literary Expressions / Striling Similes / Conversational Phrases / Public Speaking Phrases / Miscellaneous Phrases
The title of this post is one of Kleiser’s useful phrases. Maybe some of them can be used with caution in the right place
It really comes into its own in Section 7 – Literary Expressions. Here are some gloriously effulgent examples. (See what I did there?)
- A broad, complacent, admiring imbecility breathed from his nose and lips
- A cold, hard, frosty penuriousness was his prevalent characteristic
- A cunning intellect patiently diverting every circumstance to its design
- He was quaking on the precipice of a bad bilious attack
- Her eyes were limpid and her beauty was softened by an air of indolence and languor
- Her haughty step waxed timorous and vigilant
- His gaze seemed full of unconquerable hopefulness
- How sweet and reasonable the pale shadows of those who smile from some dim corner of our memories
- In a tone of after-dinner perfunctoriness
- In requital for various acts of rudeness
- In the perpetual presence of everlasting verities
- Jealousies and animosities which pricked their sluggish blood to tingling
- Ludicrous attempts of clumsy playfulness and tawdry eloquence
- Morn, in yellow and white, came broadening out of the mountains
- Oppressed with a confused sense of cumbrous material
- She hugged the thought of her own unknown and unapplauded integrity
- Strange laughings and glitterings of silver streamlets
- The incoherent loquacity of a nervous patient
- The landscape ran, laughing, downhill to the sea
- The plenitude of her piquant ways
- They became increasingly turbid and phantasmagorical
- Uttering grandiose puerilities
- Softened by the solicitude of untiring and anxious love
If you go to Project Gutenberg you can download the whole of it here: https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/18362/pg18362-images.html