Some time ago, I took a break from mysteries and read BRIDGET JONES: MAD ABOUT THE BOY by Helen Fielding. It was time for some mind candy and Bridget Jones–books or movies–always delivers.

The book was written in the same diary/inner dialogue familiar from the first two Bridget books, but with a bit more emotional heft. Bridget is now a widow with two small kids, trying to get her life back together and date again.

Fielding reuses some of her best lines from the first movie (she was one of the screenwriters) to reestablish Bridget’s voice and the tone of the characters’ interactions. For example, Daniel Cleaver’s first set of dialogue in the book is virtually lifted from the silver screen and Bridget is again wonderfully airy about looking “busy and important.” In fact, the phrase “busy and important” is repeated several times and is clearly a Bridget/Helen favorite. And it should be, because it helps to set and maintain the character’s voice throughout the book.

Phrases like that occasionally stay with me long after I’ve finished reading or heard someone utter the words. A clever phrase can evoke an image, establish a character in a way that resonates, or lets me form a mental picture.

Although I’m very busy and important today, here are 5 favorite phrases that sing:

Attractively damaged man

This phrase was included in a magazine article about 30 things you should do before you are 30, including coin a phrase. Regrettably, I have lost the magazine and the author’s name but it was a very funny article and the phrase seemed to perfectly describe far too many men I met in my 20’s.

Structural tension

This is a phrase I’ve heard bandied about in relation to government agencies that don’t perform well and businesses that go under. It seems to be a neat way to blame poor decisions on a wiring diagram.

And I meant it to sting

The books of British humorist P.G. Wodehouse are a treasure trove of wonderful expressions and this is a delicious riposte that works even when you’ve said something inane and the target has left the room. Attributed to Wodehouse’s iconic character Bertie Wooster.

A face like late Picasso

Can there be a better description of what someone looks like? This is from one of the Harry Hole mystery novels by Norwegian author Jo Nesbo on the occasion of Harry looking at himself in the mirror after one of his drinking/drugging binges.

And trouble ensued

There’s a musical folly called Spaghetti Western Swing on Brad Paisley’s Mud on the Tires album that combines dialogue and music into a story about cowboys and bad guys in the Old West. The voice actors are famed musicians from the Grand Ole Opry. The whole thing is pretty funny—there’s laughter in the background so you know they were having a good time taping this—and at one point before the guitar swings into high gear someone says this phrase, creating the perfect imagery.

Well, time to be off doing something busy and important.

And trouble ensued.

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2 Comments

  1. Barbara

    A phrase that I read recently, in a novel (the Secret Keeper by Kate Morton) with a mysterious twist. The phrase was “a turn up for the books.”
    It was also in a reader’s play called Bed Among the Lentils which I performed for our Wednesday Morning Club. I had never seen that phase anywhere else before. It means this is something to celebrate.

    • Carmen

      “A turn up for the books”–I like it! Thanks, Barbara, and I’m sorry to have missed your performance!

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I'm author Carmen Amato. I write mystery and suspense, including the Detective Emilia Cruz police series set in Acapulco. Expect risk, power, corruption. And relationships with heat.  More

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