Dot Wordsworth

Why my husband is throwing socks at the TV during the Covid-19 crisis

4 April 2020 9:00 am

My husband has special ‘throwing socks’. They are a rolled-up pair of woolly hiking socks. He does not hike. He…

How ‘barley’ cropped up

28 March 2020 9:00 am

‘Why can’t you write about something wholesome?’ asked my husband, in a flanking move. He was in a bad mood…

How to judge a book by its colour

21 March 2020 9:00 am

I pictured the Green Book (which Rishi Sunak has been urged to tear up) as a matt card-bound thing like…

Why we can’t count toast

7 March 2020 9:00 am

‘Somebody loves me,’ said my husband, waving a copy of The Spectator above his head as though pursued by wasps.…

What do elbows have to do with fighting coronavirus?

29 February 2020 9:00 am

Before the Covid-19 scare I never thought that one particular Spanish proverb would come in useful. It goes: ‘Los ojos…

How did being connected become ‘connectivity’?

21 February 2020 10:00 pm

Facebook recently told readers of the Sun that satellites could ‘bring broadband connectivity to rural regions where internet connectivity is…

The Streatham stabbing is being investigated at pace. But what does that mean?

15 February 2020 9:00 am

In Arnold Bennett’s Tales of the Five Towns, a young dog called Ellis Carter takes a girl for a drive…

Is Billie Eilish really in shock over James Bond?

7 February 2020 10:00 pm

Billie Eilish, who has just won five Grammys, is also singing the theme song for the next Bond film. ‘James…

Did Harry and Meghan step back, step down or step away?

1 February 2020 9:00 am

At this time of year in Colorado the crime of puffing is widespread. It is so cold that in the…

Rebecca Long-Bailey is right: hyphens come and go

24 January 2020 10:00 pm

When Francis Hurt inherited the Renishaw estate in 1777, he changed his surname to Sitwell. His eight-year-old son and heir…

Pansexuality has been around longer than you think

18 January 2020 9:00 am

When an MP announced she was pansexual I didn’t know what she meant. Indeed I didn’t know what she could…

What is a ‘tergiversation’?

11 January 2020 9:00 am

Last year, someone at US dictionary Merriam-Webster noticed that lots of people were looking up the word tergiversation online. It…

What were the words that defined 2019?

21 December 2019 9:00 am

‘Come off it,’ said my husband when I told him that upcycling was the word of the year. His response…

Where did ‘aconite’ spring from?

14 December 2019 9:00 am

‘What,’ asked my husband teasingly, by way of an early Christmas game, ‘connects wolf’s-bane with Woolwich Arsenal?’ It took me…

What exactly is a narwhal?

7 December 2019 9:00 am

A point that many people mentioned amid the horror and heroism of the attack at London Bridge was the enterprising…

Where did ‘decuman’ come from?

30 November 2019 9:00 am

‘What made you chase that hare?’ asked my husband with rare geniality. John Ruskin was to blame. He asked James…

From Pliny to poetry: the history of ‘ictus’ and ‘ductus’

23 November 2019 9:00 am

‘I know the difference between ictal and icteric,’ said my husband proudly, reminding me of Tweedledum in Through the Looking-Glass.…

Why is a ladybird called a ‘bishy barnabee’?

16 November 2019 9:00 am

People in different regions like to think their dialects incomprehensible to outsiders, yet they can usually come up with quite…

What’s the different between ‘while’ and ‘whilst’?

9 November 2019 9:00 am

‘Why is whilst only ever used in letters?’ asked my husband, casting aside an argumentative letter from his sister written…

Why are artlessly ambiguous headlines called ‘crash blossoms’?

2 November 2019 9:00 am

‘Hospitals named after sandwiches kill five,’ ran a headline in the Times in June. When it was tweeted by the…

Surd

26 October 2019 9:00 am

Lewis Carroll, in his Phantasmagoria, and Other Poems (1869), constructed a poem that yielded a double acrostic, with the first…

How the language of blackjack crept into Brexit

19 October 2019 9:00 am

In the Times, Janice Turner wrote that she had been watching Remainers and Leavers ‘like degenerate gamblers, double down, bet…

What’s the word for a word that’s been used only once?

12 October 2019 9:00 am

It is easy to speak a sentence never spoken before since the world came fresh from its mould. It’s not…

Sweaty Betty, Acne: the fashion for nasty brand names

5 October 2019 9:00 am

On my way to a party in Ealing I saw a shop called Pan Rings. A mental image popped up…

How did BBC’s Late Night Line-Up get its name?

28 September 2019 9:00 am

The title of the television review and discussion programme Late Night Line-Up is a curious one. I’d be interested if…