Thursday, March 22, 2007

15,000 Useful Phrases

I believe it was Robert Southey (NOT pictured above) who said, "It is with words as with sunbeams, the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn."

Project Gutenberg has available (free to all) Greenville Kleiser's classic reference book, "15,000 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."

This is a great tool for aspiring screenwriters, because action lines really are about the mastery of condensed phrases. "A good phrase may outweigh a poor library," as Thomas W. Higginson once wrote. To this day, my favorite phrase in Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon is when he described that Bartender in Paul Barras’ chateau as "a friendly creep." I really loved that. It's short, engaging, and fun.

To give you a taste, I've listed below all of the phrases under the "A" category. It's the almost contradictory phrases that excite me, such as, "adorable vanity, adulated stranger, artificial suavity, and agreeable frankness." Agreeable, indeed!


abandoned hope
abated pride
abbreviated visit
abhorred thraldom [thraldom = enslaved or in bondage]
abiding romance
abject submission
abjured ambition
able strategist
abnormal talents
abominably perverse
abounding happiness
abridged statement
abrogated law
abrupt transition
absolutely irrevocable
absorbed reverie
abstemious diet [abstemious = eating and drinking in moderation]
abstract character
abstruse reasoning
absurdly dangerous
abundant opportunity
abusive epithet
abysmally apologetic
academic rigor
accelerated progress
accentuated playfulness
accepted littleness
accessible pleasures
accessory circumstances
accidental lapse
accommodating temper
accomplished ease
accredited agent
accumulated burden
accurate appraisement
accursed enemy
accusing glance
accustomed lucidity
aching desire
acknowledged authority
acoustical effects
acquired timidity
acrid controversy
acrimonious warfare
actively zealous
actualized ideals
acutely conscious
adamantine rigidity [adamantine = unyielding; inflexible]
adaptive wit
adduced facts [adduce = cite as an example]
adequate execution
adhesive quality
administered rebuke
admirable reserve
admissible evidence
admittedly inferior
admonitory gesture
adolescent youth
adorable vanity
adroit flatterer
adulated stranger
adventitious way [adventitious = not inherent; added extrinsically]
adventurous mind
adverse experience
affably accommodating
affected indifference
affectionate approval
affianced lady
affirmative attitude
affluent language
affrighted slave
aggravated faults
aggregate body
aggressive selfishness
agile mind
agitated imagination
agonizing appeal
agreeable frankness
aimless confusion
airy splendor
alarming rapidity
alert acceptance
algebraic brevity
alien splendor
alleged reluctance
allegorical vein
allied subjects
alliterative suggestion
all-pervading influence
alluring idleness
alternating opinion
altogether dissimilar
altruistic ideal
amatory effusions [amatory = expressive of sexual love]
amazing artifice
ambidextrous assistant
ambiguous grimace
ambitious project
ambling pedestrian
ambrosial essence [ambrosial = fragrant or delicious; worthy of the gods; divine.]
amiable solicitude
amicable arrangement
amorous youth
ample culture
amusing artlessness
analogous example
analytical survey
ancestral creed
ancient garb
angelic softness
angry protestations
anguished entreaty
angular features
animated eloquence
annoying complications
anomalous appearance
anonymous benefactor
answering response
antagonistic views
antecedent facts
anticipated attention
antiquated prudery
anxious misgiving
apathetic greeting
aphoristic wit [aphoristic = Tersely phrased statement]
apish agility
apocalyptic vision
apocryphal lodger [apocryphal = questionable authenticity]
apologetic explanation
apostrophic dignity
appalling difficulties
apparent significance
appealing picture
appointed function
apposite illustration
appreciable relief
appreciative fervor
apprehensive dread
apprentice touch
appropriate designation
approving smile
approximately correct
aptly suggested
arbitrarily imposed
arch conspirator
arched embrasure [embrasure = flared opening for a gun in a wall or parapet]
archeological pursuits
architectural grandeur
ardent protest
arduous quest
arid formula
aristocratic lineage
aromatic fragrance
arrant trifling
arrested development
arrogant imposition
artful adaptation
artificial suavity
artistic elegance
artless candor
ascending supremacy
ascetic devotion
ascribed productiveness
aspiring genius
assembled arguments
asserted activity
assiduously cultivated
assimilative power
assumed humiliation
assuredly enshrined
astonishing facility
astounding mistakes
astute observer
athletic prowess
atmospheric vagueness
atoning sacrifice
atrocious expression
atrophied view
attending circumstances
attentive deference
attenuated sound
attested loyalty
attractive exordium [exordium = introduction of a speech or treatise]
audacious mendicant [mendicant = depending on alms; beggar]
audible intimations
augmented force
august tribunal
auspicious moment
austere charm
authentic indications
authoritative critic
autobiographical pages
autocratic power
automatic termination
autumnal skies
auxiliary aids
available data
avaricious eyes
avenging fate
average excellence
averted calamity
avowed intention
awakened curiosity
awed devotion
awful dejection
awkward dilemma
axiomatic truth
azure sky


Mickey Lee said...

How can you not love "apostrophic dignity"?

Mystery Man said...


I'm using that in my next review.


GimmeABreak said...

I'm an alliteration fan, myself:

amusing artlessness
burdensome business
carping critic
derogatory denial
emphatic earnestness
fawning flatteries
gathering gloom
heathen hordes
indelicate impetuosity
labored levity
maddening monotony
personal predilection
ripe reflection
savage satirist
tart temper
unenvied insipidity (this one's not alliterative but I love the sound of it)
vicarious virtue
wearisome wordiness

Unknown said...


I just read one in a story im reviewing "athletically rumpled"

Mystery Man said...

Bob - Hehehe...

Those are beautiful, Pat. I'm going to use as many of those as I can in my next review just for the fun of it! Poor bastard won't know what got into me.



Mim said...

xenophobic zealot.

Just Jake said...

My personal (and you may add it to your list) alliteration phrase is: "amusing astectic."

As in when sitting at my local Coffee Bean yeaterday afternoon when a girl walked past wearing a heavy wool sweater, really short black nylon shorts, and knee-high boa-feather black boots and I commented "She certainly has a developed sense of amusing astectic when it comes to her fashion choice."

To which my companion replied, "Yeah, but did you see those tits?"

PS: that picture looks an awful lot like my high school English teacher.

jayessell said...

GimmieABreakI read your post in the 'Lost in Space' Dr. Smith voice.