Boy howdy. Boy HOWDY, nothing chaps my hide more than that phrase. Except maybe the hyphenated: well-preserved, especially when it refers to a woman and includes her age, as in Dame Judy Dench is a well-preserved 76.
I mean, really. Don’t you think that makes it sound as if Dame Judy died in 1324BC and was and embalmed with some pretty amazing secret Egyptian stuff that’s kept her looking daisy fresh and more life-like than King Tut?
More often than not, these phrases refer to women. In most cases they are meant to be compliments, but they’re pretty backhanded. It’s like saying, you’re thin for a fat person or you’re smart for a hick. Insulting, innit?
For myself, I’d probably have an sudden aneurysm if anyone ever uttered she looks good and is remarkably well-preserved for her age in my presence, however, these two horrid phrases are going to feature in my PhD research, which will be examining this: Cougars, Grannies, and Menopausal Knitters: Roles, Representations of Age and the Non-traditional Romance Heroine.
I know y’all can’t wait to read it.