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Oh dear, Hilary Mantel...

3 years ago

I’m currently reading The Mirror and the Light. I am enjoying it, but my brain hit a speed bump when one of her characters said something to the effect of, “As they say in playing tennis, let’s cut to the chase.”

As far as I’m aware, no one playing tennis has ever said this, and I cannot imagine what “the chase” might be in tennis. This is a movie idiom coined in the silent movie era, meaning, “cut out the long boring speech and go to the exciting scene where the bad guys are chasing the stage coach or the cops are chasing the robbers or whatever”. It is thought it may have been inspired by the direction in late Victorian times for actors giving matinee performances of Hamlet, where to shorten the play time they cut out a lot of the soliloquies and “cut to Hecuba”. Of course this postdates the action in The Mirror and the Light as well.

I admit I’m a little disappointed in Ms Mantel.

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