Fraser’s Phrases: Five British Sayings to Live By

An actual game of two halves

There’s more to life than the wisdom imparted within these five expressions, but not much more. Consider this a British lesson in time-worn (but still very modern) etiquette:

“Don’t get out of your pram”
A simple way to belittle someone who has become unreasonably angry over very little. The kind of person who appears to be having a tantrum, of the sort you’d normally associate with babies, over a trifling matter. If you avoid this kind of groundless fury, people will respect you more, even behind your back.

“It’s a game of two halves”
An expression which derives from soccer. In life, you can win and you can lose. You can start off winning, then lose for a bit, and still win at the end. Or start off struggling to make any kind of impression, and then right at the very last minute, lose entirely. It’s a game of two halves, one you need to keep playing, and that game is not over until the final whistle. At which point the fat lady will gather up her belongings and go home.

“Look after the pennies, and the pounds will look after themselves”
A fairly straightforward piece of financial advice, this. However there’s a sting in the tale. If you look after the pennies to such an obsessive degree you become a miser, afraid to splash out on anything and always cutting corners (a state of being that is called being penny-wise and pound-foolish), disaster is on the way. So basically, don’t be silly with the small change, and don’t be afraid to enjoy what money you have, once in a while. Or to put it another way, look after the pennies, and the pounds, and yourself. OK?

“No need to make a song and dance about it”
A cousin to the pram expression above, however this relates to the overcomplification of things which are simple. Here’s an example. You’ve been asked for directions to the local swimming pool, which is three blocks along, and two to the right. Do not pepper your description with tales of all the rare and unusual buildings along the way, and do not offer personal anecdotes. You’re not making friends, and even if you are, there will be time for chat later, once the swimming is done. Three blocks along, two to the right, that’s all anyone needs.

“Rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic”
Something bad is on the way. Something bad and inevitable and entirely impossible to battle. You can either make preparations for the immediate aftermath, knowing you can’t avoid the thing itself, or you can rant and rage and howl about the injustice that this thing is heading your way at all. If you’re doing the latter (or indeed taking part in any related action which will do nothing to aid anyone who will be affected, yourself included), you’re rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. It’s good to keep busy in a crisis, but just be honest about what you’re doing, and you’ll be fine.

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 13 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Music.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic

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