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New phrases I’ve recently learned

He's a doctor, but he can't heal that leg. And he hates the people he saves. Double whammy.

He’s a doctor, but he can’t heal that leg. And he hates the people he saves. Double whammy.

Vocational Irony Narrative

Def. A story in which a character’s problems are those typically solved by his/her entire profession. E.g. a doctor has a disease.

Where it’s from:

I’m referring to the story of the travel writer who hates to leave home or the relationship guru who can’t have a relationship herself or the podiatrist who suffers from horrible bunions.

It’s a genre that writers adore because there’s a set formula that can be reproduced in any of a hundred professions, almost in your sleep. There’s the lawyer who suddenly finds himself charged with a crime! There’s the doctor who gets ill and gets sucked into the morass of the American health care system. There’s the fake medium who suddenly starts seeing real ghosts.

The Vocational Irony Narrative works well for television, because it’s a set-up for a character-driven workplace series. The Vocational Irony Narrative also works well for indie filmmakers because it makes your premise really easy to pitch to financiers, actors and distributors.

~Daniel Fienberg, of Hitfix

Where I saw it: The AV Club’s review of episode one of Ray Donovan.


Cute Aggression

Def. The strange urge to give something cute a giant squeeze. Ex.”I could eat you up.”

Where I saw it:

New research by two Yale University psychologists details how the sight of something cute brings out our aggressive side. Rebecca Dyer and Oriana Aragon investigated “cute aggression” by showing study participants slide shows of either cute, funny or normal animal photographs. As they watched, the participants held bubble wrap. The researchers, attempting to mimic the common desire to squeeze cute things, told subjects to pop as many or as few bubbles as they wished. People watching the cute slide show popped significantly more bubbles than those viewing the funny or control pictures, according to results presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology annual meeting in New Orleans. “Some things are so cute that we just can’t stand it,” Dyer concludes.

Cute aggression’s prevalence does not mean that people actually want to harm cuddly critters, Aragon explains. Rather the response could be protective, or it could be the brain’s way of tamping down or venting extreme feelings of giddiness and happiness. The scientists are currently conducting additional studies to determine what drives the need to squeeze.

~Carrie Arnold, of the Scientific American.

via Wikimedia.

via Wikimedia.


This is more of a usage than a definition, but it’s been brought to my attention that the term is used in cook books as a figure of speech designed to make that act of cooking a meal seem more action-packed.

Where I saw it:

“In [Eliza Acton’s] recipe for whitebait I noticed that odd usage still favored by cookery writers: throw the fish into a cloth, and then throw it into deep fat. I cannot be the only cook with remarkably poor aim. Why do we have to keep throwing things about?”

~Liza Picard, in the physical book Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840–1870That’s right, I read dead tree books sometimes.


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