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Sometimes people garble a well-known phrase because they’re too young to remember what it refers to – or because they’ve just got no imagination.

Since the 1950s, this suburban district on the edges of Farnborough, Croydon and Bromley has been considered Desperado Central: a lawless terrain of mock-Tudor homes and gated communities where retired armed robbers, Cockney racketeers and their kohl-drenched partners in crime used to retire to spend their ill-gotten gains. John Walsh, Independent June 5 10 Kohl drenched? Even allowing for hyperbole, a kohl-drenched person would be a Goth, not a gangster’s wife.

And sometimes an attempt at clarification just makes things more obscure: Most of Egon Ronay’s obituaries repeated his experience at the Victoria Station buffet, where he was shocked to find a communal teaspoon on a bit of string. In some accounts, this became a spoon suspended from a string, which became a spoon on a string suspended from the ceiling.
Bottle-glass panes
Few people wear “bottle-bottom” specs any more. They had lenses so thick they looked like the bottom of a glass bottle. Bottle bottoms were sometimes flattened and used as window-panes for that 18th century, Quality Street look. But if you’ve never seen the specs, or the window-panes, or even a glass bottle, you may end up with:

bottle top glasses Times Aug 1 09

milk-bottle specs Guardian March 31, 2008

coke-bottle spectacles Guardian

Macaroni penguins were “named, says Nigel Marven, after the 18th-century English dandies who'd been to Italy on their grand tours and come back with pasta and yellow streaky hair” (guardian.co.uk) “This species was named after a group of flamboyant dressing men (often with dyed hair) of the 1700s who traveled from England to Italy (and ate pasta) and were called Macaroni Dandies.” marinbio.net Actually, a Macaroni was a kind of late 18th century dandy who had nothing to do with pasta.

“April is the cruellest month” means it’s usually cold. No, it’s the cruellest because it breeds lilacs out of the dead land (in T.S. Eliot’s poem The Wasteland). Just when you’d thought everything was safely dead, it gives you a sign of hope, or desperate nostalgia for when you/a girl you once saw in passing were young in a lost world like Vienna before the First World War.

Angela Workman, the film [Bronte]'s writer and director: “There's a fear of telling this story because there's a fear it will be too depressing. There was great tragedy in their lives and they died young, but the lifespan for women in that region at that time was 25, and it occurred to me that the Brontes lived beyond that.” So their middle-aged aunt and 70-something servant were also doing pretty well. Maybe 25 was the average lifespan for women in 19th century Yorkshire.

The fictional character Lord Peter Wimsey dropped his Gs to show solidarity with the workin’ classes (bleedin’ ’eck!). Actually it was an old-fashioned (even in his day) upper class affectation.

Ice pick
Trotsky was killed with an ice pick, a shortened “mountaineering instrument” which the murderer had hidden under his clothes, according to the Guardian June 16, 2005. Wasn’t it a small handheld instrument for breaking up blocks of ice to put in cocktails?

Prince Harry’s bad-taste party outfit, rather than prompting us all to reach for the vapours... A.N. Wilson, Evening Standard January 14, 2005 When you have a fit of the vapours (fainting fit) you reach for the smelling salts.

Too much collagen
Meg Ryan looks as if she has two trout implanted in her lips. Guardian Oct 2003. Yes, she’s got a “trout pout”, but it makes you look like a trout.

As the pennies, beautifully arranged along the way, begin to drop into place. Evening Standard April 21, 2008 Pennies drop singly into What the Butler Saw machines, or lavatory doors. When you finally understand something you say “the penny’s dropped”.

Auctions are not the preserve of people with double-barrelled names and big chins. Observer May 23 10 Upper class people are traditionally chinless due to inbreeding and unwillingness to have their teeth fixed.
Chinless wonder