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Delahunty - The Oxford Dictionary of Allusions (2001).pdf
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Pollyanna The heroine of stories for children written by the American author Eleanor H. Porter (1868-1920), Pollyanna is a perpetually cheerful girl who teaches everyone she meets to play the 'just being glad' game: 'the game was to just find something about everything to be glad about—no matter what 'twas'. The name Pollyanna has come to stand for an unflagging (and often excessively saccharine) cheerfulness, an ability to find apparent cause for happiness in the most unpromising situations. The term often seems to be accompanied by a sense of apology, a recognition that such optimism may seem to others rather naive.

Hadn't they been happy here? After all the bedsits and borrowed apartments and shitty pensiones, hadn't this been the dream place? . . . Had he lived in some Pollyanna blur all this time? Was he missing something? Was she miserable and bored? And worse?

TIM wiNTON The Riders, 1994

I don't want to sound too Pollyanna-ish, but anyone getting autumn state-of-the- world blues might tune in to BBC Radio's 1995 Young Writers' Festival, First Bite, which has just ended its first week. If the pieces I heard are any gauge of the creativity to come, then the grounds for optimism are abundant.

The Guardian, 1995


This theme is chiefly concerned with the content of what is said. Another

theme, Speech, deals with the distinctive qualities of a person's speaking


CatO Marcus Porcius Cato (234-149 BC) was a Roman statesman, orator, and writer. After visiting Carthage in 175 BC, he was so impressed by the dangerous power of the Carthaginians that he afterwards ended every speech in the Senate with the words 'Delenda est Carthago' ('Carthage must be destroyed').

Other editors, who were disguised neither as preachers nor as farmers, donned newsprint togas and appeared as modern Catos, ready to shed the last drop of their ink in defence of those virtues which they believed to be the exclusive property of the party not in power.

ROBERTSON DAViEs Leaven of Malice, 1954

Winston Churchill Winston Churchill (1874-1965) was a British politician and prime minister who led the coalition government during the Second World War. He was a gifted orator whose wartime speeches included many famous passages such as: 'We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.'

'Yes. The truth is the last repository of youth. And while a man is prepared to look truth in the face and see the mirror of his defects, let no man call him old.' And


having delivered himself of this phrase so redolent of Churchill, Beaverbrook and possibly even Baldwin at his most meaningless, Lord Petrefact blew a smoke ring from his cigar with great expertise.

TOM SHARPE Ancestral Vices, 1980

Cicero Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) was a Roman orator, statesman, and writer. Cicero's name and the adjective 'Ciceronian' are sometimes mentioned to suggest eloquence or oratory.

You'd scarce expect one of my age

To speak in public on the stage;

And if I chance to fall below

Demosthenes or Cicero,

Don't view me with a critic's eye,

But pass my imperfections by.

Large streams from little fountains flow,

Tall oaks from little acorns grow,

DAVID EVERETT Lines Written for a School Declamation, 1 7 7 6

'Except,' said Dalziel. And paused. There was something splendidly Ciceronian about Dalziel's 'except! A single word left hanging, ungrammatically, in the air. And amidst the serried ranks of senators a small sough of intaken breath, then utter silence as they concentrated all their attention on the next eloquent weighty sentence to emerge from that eloquent weighty figure, statuesque at the centre of the tessellated floor. 'Except it's all balls,' said Dalziel.

REGINALD HILL A Pinch of Snuff, 1978

Demosthenes Demosthenes (384-322 BC) was an Athenian orator and statesman, famous for a series of orations attacking the rising power of Philip of Macedon.

The explorer waxes eloquent as Antony, Demosthenes and the Speaker of the House

all rolled into one.

T. CORACHESSAN BOYLE Water Music, 1981

Hamlet Hamlet, a legendary prince of Denmark, is the hero of Shakespeare's play of the same name (1604). Hamlet is a tormented character, devastated by the death of his father and remarriage of his mother, and uncertain as to what action to take. He is obsessively introspective and delivers long soliloquies expressing his mental anguish, most famously his contemplation of suicide in the speech beginning 'To be, or not to be: that is the question'. Hamlet can be alluded to as someone who talks at length, expressing anxieties, doubts, or unhappiness.

I said I wanted to be best man, I said I wanted a church wedding. I went on about it. I started shouting. I came the Hamlets a bit. I was drunk at the time, if you must know.

JULIAN BARNES Talking It Over, 1991

John the Baptist John the Baptist was a Jewish preacher and prophet, who preached at the time of Jesus, demanding that his hearers repent of their sins and be baptized.

He was a John the Baptist who took ennoblement rather than repentance for his


THOMAS HARDY The Return of the Native, 1880


Abraham Lincoln Abraham Lincoln (1809-65) was an American Republican statesman and the 16th president of the United States from 1861 to 1865. He was noted for his eloquent speeches, including his speech of 1863 during the American Civil War at the dedication of the cemetery of those killed in the battle of Gettysburg, known as the Gettysburg Address.

Pericles Pericles (c.49 5-429 BC) was an Athenian


and general

noted for his oratory.



Charles did not actually have to deliver a Periclean

oration plus


world news summary from the steps of the Town Hall.



JOHN FOWLES The French Lieutenant's Woman, 1969



Sermon on the Mount In the Bible, the Sermon on the Mount is the long sermon given by Jesus to his disciples on a mountain, recorded in Matt. 5-7. It contains the Beatitudes and the Lord's Prayer. • See special entry JESUS on p. 223.

They listened to the words of the man in their midst, who was preaching, while they abstractedly pulled heather, stripped ferns, or tossed pebbles down the slope. This was the first of a series of moral lectures or Sermons on the Mount, which were to be delivered from the same place every Sunday afternoon as long as the fine weather lasted.

THOMAS HARDY The Return of the Native, 1880

John Wesley John Wesley (1703-91) was an English preacher and one of the founders of Methodism. He travelled throughout Britain, preaching and gaining converts.


Waiters use the allusions below mostly to describe something, often a

belief or attitude, that is so old-fashioned as to seem anachronistic. • See

also Modernity Past.

Ark The Book of Genesis relates how God warned Noah that he was going to send a great flood to destroy the world and instructed him to build the Ark, a huge ship, to save his family and a pair of every species of animal and bird. References to Noah and expressions such as 'out of the Ark' can be used in connection with something that is very antiquated or out of date. >See special

entry u NOAH AND THE FLOOD on p. 279.

Then he sat down near his brief-case on the far side of a scarred oak table that came out of the Ark. Noah bought it second-hand.

RAYMOND CHANDLER The Long Goodbye, 1953

And it would balance her table, thought Mair, although that was hardly likely to have been a consideration. She despised the Noah's Ark convention which decreed



that a superfluous man, however unattractive

or stupid, was acceptable; a superflu-


woman, however witty and well-informed,

a social embarrassment,

p. D.

JAMES Devices and Desires, 1989


Dark Ages The term 'the Dark Ages' has sometimes been used to designate the period in the West between the fall of the Roman Empire and the high Middle Ages (that is, from about the 5th to the nth century), so called because it used to be regarded as a time of relative unenlightenment and obscurity. In other contexts the term can suggest any unenlightened or ignorant period or, when used humorously, any little-regarded period before the present. To 'live in the Dark Ages' is to be old-fashioned or prejudiced in one's behaviour and attitudes.

Jim's brow darkened. 'Look, old son. The law's no place for Luddites. We're in business, remember? We need to compete, to provide a decent service! 'I haven't heard Kevin or Jeannie Walters complaining! 'You've done a superb job, I'm the first to say so. But we must move with the times. We can't keep living in the Dark Ages!

MARTIN EDWARDS Yesterday's Papers, 1994

Forth Bridge The Forth Bridge is a cantilevered railway bridge built in 1890 across the Forth of Firth, linking Fife and Lothian on the east coast of Scotland. The bridge requires constant maintenance and the expression 'painting the Forth Bridge' alludes to the idea that as soon as workers have finished painting the bridge, they immediately have to start repainting it.

So a treaty that took ten years to negotiate is out of date before it even comes into force. What you might call the Forth Bridge theory of arms control.

BBC Radio 4, 1995

Jurassic In geology, the Jurassic period lasted from about 213 to 144 million years ago. Dinosaurs were abundant and attained their maximum size. Popularized by Steven Spielberg's blockbuster dinosaur film Jurassic Park (1992), the term is sometimes used informally to mean 'extremely out of date or antiquated'.

Call me Jurassic, but I couldn't care less about authenticity and immediacy when I'm

engrossed in a good story.

The Observer, 1997

Noah's Ark • See ARK.

Rip Van Winkle The hero of Washington Irving's story Rip Van Winkle (1820), Rip falls asleep in the Catskill mountains in New York State, and wakes after twenty years to find the world completely changed. He has, for example, completely missed the War of American Independence. Someone who has remained oblivious to social and political changes over an extended period can be said to be 'Rip-Van-Winkleish'.

A political Rip van Winkle who had never watched television and read neither newspapers nor books until the last years of his term, Kim cannot believe, even less comprehend, this changed world. His only reading material until 1990 had been the Bible.

ANDREW HICGINS in The Observer, 1997

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