Philip Norman’s Week: At the end of the day, you just have to grit your teeth

Share
Related Topics

A US college named Marist (founded by the hypochondriac wife of Niles Crane in Frasier, perhaps?) has come up with yet another list of the most annoying expressions in English. In first place is "whatever" – as employed by teenagers when adults are attempting to impart wisdom – followed by "you know", "it is what it is" and "at the end of the day".

The Americans have caught this last one from us, which serves them right after all the infuriating usages they've exported to Britain, mainly via the sitcom Friends ("you guys", "can I get a skinny latte?", "Oh-my-GAD"). I can actually remember when "at the end of the day" entered popular speech after Harold Macmillan used it to title the final volume of his autobiography. For years, it was the faithful standby of waffling politicians and football managers justifying defeat. Now it trips so often from the tongues of feral youths that I think we should name them "Y'endadays". ("Y'endaday I turned round and bloody bopped 'im one.")

But the most annoying expression? What about "are you all right there?", which almost all shop assistants now prefer to the stuffy and archaic "may I help you?". Or "sign this for me", as if that stony-faced post office counter person is involving you in some private, intimate transaction? Or "it was a game of two halves"? Or "he's in a meeting"? Or "I'm not a happy bunny"? Or "the thing is is"?

I had precious little sympathy with the late Clement Freud, but on one point I was absolutely with him. In his later years, Freud could not abide his local greengrocer addressing him jocularly as "young man". It has happened to me, too, and there's really no reply other than "I'm not a young man", a fact to which one prefers not to draw attention.

The other day at M&S, I was repeatedly called "my friend" by the hearty young checkout bloke. Again, what could one say but the impossibly pompous "I'm not your friend, I'm your customer"?

I just thought of that great western The Comancheros in which a bumptious riverboat gambler keeps doing it to John Wayne until discouraged by a pile-driving left hook. "Pretty soon," drawls Wayne, "you're gonna get the idea that I ain't yer friend."

Goodwill? It'll never catch on

Each time I pass James Smith and Sons' umbrella shop in London's New Oxford Street, I wonder how much longer I'll have the joy of looking at it. The façade has remained unchanged for more than 100 years. We all know what tends to befall such places in the rising sludgy tide of mobile phone shops and Starbucks.

Heaven knows how they can pay West End rents. I've had one of their golf umbrellas for 12 years, and periodically take it back for small repairs. The latest problem was hardly major. But the manager noticed an even tinier one. The button at the end of the furling ribbon had worked loose. There and then, he sewed on a new one. "How much?" I asked. "Nothing," he replied. "It's included in the £5 charge for re-sewing the spoke."

When Smith and his Sons set up in the 19th century, shops used to include something called "goodwill". And they've clearly never forgotten it. Sod off, Starbucks.

We've had enough of this cruelty

Am I alone in getting thoroughly cheesed off with The X Factor? When the show began I welcomed it, both as a springboard for new talent and a sign that Britain wasn't such a social bomb site after all. There were really were ambitious, dedicated people out there, backed by loving, supportive families. But now content takes second place to packaging: as Kenneth Tynan once said of The Johnny Carson Show, there's almost nothing to it but foreplay.

The parade of the hopelessly untalented and self-deluded at the audition stages is nothing short of sadistic. Mediocrities never seem to get a look-in; you must either be a potential winner or borderline special needs. There's hardly less sadism when each judge tells their group who is and is not going forward to the next stage, spinning it out endlessly. "I've made my decision ... and ... it's bad news ... you're through to Boot Camp." If Cheryl Cole really aspires to be our new Princess Diana, she should refuse to have any part of this.

For every minute of performance, there are hours of padding. And the set-ups are becoming laughable. A contestant picks a hopelessly wrong song and is stopped halfway by Cowell. "Can I try another song, please, please, Simon?" After nail-biting deliberation, the great man assents. And whaddayouknow – the backing track is already cued up.

The judging panel hasn't been the same since Sharon Osbourne left. Until this year I couldn't look at Dannii Minogue without thinking of Bertie Wooster. ("Dannii spelt, I'll warrant, with two Is, Jeeves." "Indubitably, sir.") I like her much more now that she's cut right back on the slap and started wearing turbans. She may look as if she's still stuck in make-up, but she's really the nicer.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Pokot woman holds a razor blade after performing a circumcision on four girls  

The campaigns to end FGM are a welcomed step, but they don't go far enough

Charlotte Rachael Proudman
Our political system is fragmented, with disillusioned voters looking to the margins for satisfaction  

Politics of hope needed to avert flight to margins

Liam Fox
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game