One of my photos

Portmanteau cliches

May 12th, 2009 · Posted by Skuds in Life · 5 Comments · Life

One phrase keeps turning up in all the coverage of the latest tranche of expense abuses – “Tory Grandee”.   Why is it always “Tory Grandee”, “Union Baron” and “Oil Magnate”?The terms are virtually synonymous because in colloquial usage they do not really mean anything beyond ‘important person’.   You could just as easily have a “Union Magnate” but that term just doesn’t crop up.

I wonder how these interchangeable words got attached to certain groups of people.  Search on Google for Tory Grandee and you get a 235,000 hits.  Search for Labour Grandee and you get 25,300 hits.

Search for Union Baron and you get 4,590,000 hits – although the existence of a rugby union player called Baron does inflate that.  A search for the “Union Baron” gives 1180 hits “Tory Baron”  and “Labour Baron” give only 195 and 344 hits respectively, despite the fact that there must be several real Labour and Tory barons in the Lords.  Meanwhile, “porn baron” gives 12,200 hits and “snout baron” 208 – although to be fair half of those hits probably refer to Kenneth Clark.

I wonder (though don’t particularly care) what actual Barons think about their title being more likely to be connected to porn than politics?

More to the point, do real people erally use terms like Tory Grandee, Union Baron or Oil/Shipping/Supermarket Magnate in normal conversation?   Are these just words that only exist in newspaperland – where terms like ‘bumper’, ‘oust’, ‘slay’, ‘wed’ live on long after they drop out of most normal usage?

What other words do you see in newspapers but never hear on the streets, in the pub or at the watercooler?

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5 Comments so far ↓

  • skud's sister

    Depends on the paper. In some papers the top of the collocation list is usually ‘bogus’ and ‘asylum-seeker’, closely followed by ‘benefit’ and ‘cheat’. I try to maintain my sanity by only reading the bit of the paper that follows the word ‘Eastenders’ by ‘7.30pm’.

  • Richard

    Maintain your sanity, SS, by not reading it at all.

  • Skuds

    Sound advice from our local “left-wing extremist” 😉 I stopped reading the newspapers fairly soon after reading The Black Swan and feel quite liberated.

  • skud's sister

    I’ll stick to just looking at the cartoons then – although I can’t guarantee I’ll avoid politics that way…