Fifteen Thousand Useful Phrases

Fifteen Thousand Useful Phrases
A Practical Handbook Of Pertinent Expressions, Striking Similes, Literary, Commercial, Conversational, And Oratorical Terms, For The Embellishment Of Speech And Literature, And The Improvement Of The Vocabulary Of Those Persons Who Read, Write, And Speak English
by Grenville Kleiser

I. Useful Phrases

II. Significant Phrases

III. Felicitous Phrases

IV. Impressive Phrases

V. Prepositional Phrases

VI. Business Phrases

VII. Literary Expressions

VIII. Striking Similes

IX. Conversational Phrases

X. Public Speaking Phrases

XI. Miscellaneous Phrases

Once upon a time, in my 69th column for PCW Plus magazine, I commended Fifteen Thousand Useful Phrases (New York and London: Funk & Wagnalls, 1917) by Grenville Kleiser (1868-1953) as a never-failing source of inspiration for writers. Some people thought I must be making it all up. To give the flavour of the book and silence unbelievers, I scanned Mr Kleiser's rigorously alphabetized "Section VIII: Striking Similes" (pp225-278). Some of them are curiously familiar. Others, culled from contemporary novels or our mentor's own fevered imagination, are not. The conger-eel simile remains my favourite. Please use this literary resource with caution, and for good purposes only.

Also of note is "Section VII: Literary Expressions". For years I dithered about including this too, unsure whether it would be regarded as "A book to beguile the tedious hours" or "A dire monotony of bookish idiom", bringing "A daily avalanche of vituperation" to the hapless Langford ("A callow and conscienceless brute").

It turns out that the full text is also now available from Project Gutenberg ... although the transcriber has somewhat lessened the effect by inserting definitions of supposedly difficult words, and I prefer the pristine original. This impelled me to complete my own version. A tip of the hat to the Gutenberg transcriber for meticulously adding, at the end of "Miscellaneous Phrases", the note "Pencilled into the flyleaf: 'A navy blue feeling where my heart used to be'".

By the way, for anyone who may be wondering, a machine count of all the Useful Phrases reveals that Grenville Kleiser generously provided not fifteen thousand but 15,511.

Book cover