Dot Wordsworth

When ‘activist’ used to mean ‘Nazi supporter’

16 June 2018 9:00 am

Rudolf Eucken had a beard and a way of tucking the ends of his bow tie under his collar that…

Unconscious bias: is Starbucks like the old Met Police?

9 June 2018 9:00 am

Starbucks closed its 8,000 American coffee shops for half a day to give staff unconscious bias training. Training is to…

Like ‘gammon’, ‘spasmodic’ was a term to put down a despised tendency

2 June 2018 9:00 am

To find out why the poetry of Ebenezer Jones was thought execrably bad, I turned to The Spectator of September…

Similar to (as opposed to like, as with, such as)

26 May 2018 9:00 am

I’m often annoyed by like being misused in different ways. (In place of as, for example: ‘Like I expected, he was…

Is Donald Trump really bonkers?

19 May 2018 9:00 am

John Kelly, the White House Chief of Staff, has a way with words. During the invasion of Iraq in 2003…

Paranoia and The Woman in White

12 May 2018 9:00 am

I sat up with a jerk, after contemplating the wallpaper in the television dramatisation of The Woman in White, when…

Terf wars and the ludicrous lexicon of feminist theory

5 May 2018 9:00 am

Fiore de Henriquez, a sculptor, had a wonderfully high-windowed studio at the bottom of Cadogan Square, where I sometimes visited…

When is an aubergine not an ‘aubergine’?

28 April 2018 9:00 am

In the warm weather, I had an al fresco hit with my mad-apple bruschette. Mad-apple shows the tangle to which…

That Beano word ‘scoff’ was first coined in the mid-19th century

21 April 2018 9:00 am

Scarcely a sober breath has been drawn in my house all week for celebrating the 90th anniversary of the completion…

Around v about: British English v American – not to mention across

14 April 2018 9:00 am

Crooning is I think the word to describe what my husband was doing to the lyrics of a Beach Boys…

He, they, fae, fer or ze? Check your pronouns

7 April 2018 9:00 am

Jay Bernard won the Ted Hughes Award last week. I managed to hear a snippet of the winning poem on Today…

Word of the week: dot

31 March 2018 9:00 am

With the sensation produced by hearing one’s name, I jumped when I saw mine on a poster advertising an Amazon…

Why should the body be immune from being hacked about?

24 March 2018 9:00 am

A 72-year-old Australian called Stelarc, the BBC reported, has an ear growing from one arm. He hopes to connect a…

We’ve been saying ‘wrap up warm’ for a thousand years

10 March 2018 9:00 am

In June 1873, Oswald Cockayne shot himself. He was in a state of melancholy, having been dismissed by King’s College…

Trahison des clercs — a phrase that dates back all the way to 1927

3 March 2018 9:00 am

I had long associated the phrase trahison des clercs with the writer Geoffrey Wheatcroft, though I can’t put my finger…

From Jeeves to Johnson: language and literary references in Boris’s speech

24 February 2018 9:00 am

In Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, Bertie is moved to reward his inestimable valet for solving the unsolvable. Before requesting the…

‘Sorted’ has always had connotations of menace

17 February 2018 9:00 am

My heart leapt up on Newport station, an unusual place for that to happen, when I heard a recorded announcement:…

Jejune

10 February 2018 9:00 am

A range of book reviewers’ clichés was held up to mockery 60 years ago, in a letter by Jocelyn Brooke…

How did the same word come to describe the activities of stable lads and sexual predators?

3 February 2018 9:00 am

Grooming is a horrible phenomenon of modern life when it happens to abused children. Yet a magazine such as GQ…

How can MPs live up to a code of conduct that makes no sense?

27 January 2018 9:00 am

Ministers must observe the rather curious ‘Seven Principles of Public Life’ in the new Ministerial Code published this month by…

Where does Donald Trump’s new favourite word come from?

20 January 2018 9:00 am

In Polite Conversation, Jonathan Swift presents dialogues made up of clichés, banalities and catchphrases. When Miss Notable makes a remark…

Why do so many academics write so badly?

13 January 2018 9:00 am

Why do so many academics write so badly? Those who make the study of language their life’s work are as…

The phrase that is almost universally misused

6 January 2018 9:00 am

Writing about Meghan Markle and the Duchess of Cambridge in the Sunday Times, India Knight wrote: ‘I can’t help but…

After many centuries, the triumph of ‘hi’ is complete

16 December 2017 9:00 am

A book that changed my way of looking at the world was The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren. It showed…

Does Brexit mean anything anymore?

9 December 2017 9:00 am

Emma Bridgewater has, since 1985, produced pottery acceptable in tasteful middle-class kitchens. Some jars had Coffee on and some Biscuits.…