My selection from Flaubert's Dictionary Of Received Ideas, his satirical poke at foolish attitudes among the French bourgeoisie of the 1870s - though, it might be agreed, some possess a sly truth of their own.
ALABASTER - Serves to describe the loveliest parts of the woman's body.
ARCHITECTS - All imbeciles. Always forget to include the household staircase.
ARMY IRREGULAR - More terrifying than the enemy.
ART - Leads to the poorhouse. What's the use of it, since we're replacing it with machines that do it better and work faster?
BASILICA - Pompous synonym for church. Is always imposing.
BATHING COSTUME - Very exciting.
BLONDES - Looser than brunettes (See BRUNETTES)
BOOK - Whatever it is, always too long.
BRUNETTES - Looser than blondes (See BLONDES)
BUTCHERS - Are terrible in times of revolution.
CATHOLICISM - Has had a most favourable influence on the arts.
CELEBRITIES - Concern oneself with every detail of their private lives, in order to be able to denigrate them.
CENSORSHIP - Has its uses, say what you will.
CLARINET - Playing one causes blindness. Example: all blind people play the clarinet.
CLOAK - Always the same colour as the wall for gallant escapes.
CLOGS - A wealthy man of humble origins always came to Paris in a pair of clogs.
CONGREGATIONALIST - Knight of Onan.
CONVICTS - Always have a ruffian look. All of them very clever with their hands. In the prison colonies they are men of genius.
CRUCIFIX - Looks good in an alcove or beside the guillotine.
CRUSADES - Were beneficial to Venetian trade.
CURLS - Do not suit men.
DESERT - Produces dates.
EMIGRANTS - Earned their living giving guitar lessons and making salads.
ENGLISH WOMEN - Express surprise that they should produce attractive children.
EPISTOLARY - Literary style exclusively reserved to women.
ETRUSCAN - All ancient vases are Etruscan.
GAME PIE - Always made of cat meat.
GARRET - How happily one lives at twenty!
GENIUS - No need to admire it, it's a "neurosis".
GERMANY - Always preceded by blonde, dreaming. But what military organization!
GORDIAN KNOT - Something to do with Antiquity. (Ancient people's way of tying their cravat.)
HERRING - The wealth of Holland.
HIDES - All animal hides come from Russia.
HORIZONS - Find them beautiful in nature and dim in politics.
HUNCHBACKS - Possess great wit. Much sought after by lascivious women.
HYDROTHERAPY - Cures and causes all diseases.
ILLUSIONS - Pretend to have many, complain about having lost them.
IMBROGLIO - What all pieces of theatre are really about.
IMPERIALISTS - All honest, polite, distinguished people.
INDIA RUBBER - Is made from a horse's scrotum.
INDOLENCE - Consequence of living in hot countries.
INFINITESIMAL - One does not know what it is, but it is connected to homeopathy.
ITALIANS - All musicians. All traitors.
JAPAN - Everything there is made of porcelain.
JESUITS - Have a hand in all revolutions. Nobody realises how numerous they are.
LACONISM - A language that is no longer spoken.
LAURELS - Prevent one from sleeping.
LITERATURE - Occupation of the idle.
MACKINTOSH - Scottish philosopher. Inventor of rubber.
MALDOLIN - Indispensable in the seduction of Spanish women.
MARTYRS - All early Christians were martyrs.
MEDICAL STUDENTS - Sleep next to corpses. Some even eat them.
MERCURY - Kills the disease and the patient.
METALLURGY - Very fashionable.
METAPHORS - There are always too many in an author's style.
MILK -Dissolves oysters. Attracts snakes. Whitens the skin; some ladies in Paris take a milk bath every morning.
MINUTE - One has no idea how long a minute can last.
MISSIONARIES - Are all eaten or crucified.
OBSCENITY - All scientific words derived from Greek or Latin conceal an obscenity.
PHOENIX - Good name for a fire insurance company.
POLITICAL ECONOMY - Gutless science.
PUBLICITY - Source of wealth.
PYRAMID - Useless undertaking.
QUESTION - To ask it is to answer it.
RELATIVES - Always unpleasant. Conceal those who are not rich.
RHYME - Never accords with reason.
RUINS - Make one dream and lend poetry to a landscape.
SABRE - The French want to be governed by a sabre.
SNEEZING: It is a witticism to say: Russian and Polish are not spoken, they are sneezed.
STUDENT: All wear a red beret, baggy trousers, smoke a pipe in the street, and do not work.
SUMMER: Always exceptional (see WINTER).
SYPHILIS - To some extent or other, everyone has it.
TOILETTE (of ladies) - Troubles the imagination.
TOYS - Should all be scientific.
TROUBADOUR - Fine motif for an ornamental clock.
WINDMILL - Looks good in a landscape.
WINTER: Always exceptional (See SUMMER).