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Leopards can't do it but the TV can

ONCE upon a time if you told a class to construct sentences using the words "break-out" and "gate" they might talk of cattle breaking out of the pen or a group of besieged knights breaking out through the postern gate of their castle but no, both of these are buzzwords now and they've been crossing my threshold in a significantly modified form of late.

Recently I overheard Sarah andfriends discussing "body break-outs". Do you suffer these? At first I thought the term referred to what sometimes happens if you wear overtight underwear, or indeed to the awesome cleavage of headmistress Muriel Blowsy which has intimidated many a parent in its time. But no, body break-outs are what you and I used to call spots and blackheads and there is a special cleansing solution for them, as advertised on TV. Of course.

Call something a "break out" and it suddenly becomes twice as important - and twice as expensive - to prevent. Just as in my teenage days TV used to frighten us with the understains for which there was a special - and, naturally, very expensive - washing powder.

My elder daughter is a sucke for these marketing ploys, as is she for anything with the word "conditioning" in it. We now have conditioning shampoo and conditioning moisturiser in our bathroom, plus conditioning bath foam (I kid you not) and - no doubt - Sal will soon be buying conditioning towels and loofahs too.

The other word that has recently made me erupt (or rather caused mental break-outs) is gate: viz a thing you used to have at the bottom of the garden. Not anymore. A gate is now that trendy new development of suburban housing that's trying to pretend it's sited on the edge of a medieval walled city - as in Cardiff Gate, Plymouth Gate and - no doubt - Gateshead Gate too.

Sarah and Ginny love our local "Gate" estate but I detest it, not just because this marketing ploy pretends to a history but because by the act of extending urban sprawl these Gates actually produce the opposite effect from the image they exploit. Gates used to keep a city finite. Now they cause it to bulge. I explained to Sarah yesterday I'm henceforth going to call these bogus new estates "city break-outs". My kids think I'm weird.

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