Dot Wordsworth

Does a dark lantern give out light?

23 March 2019 9:00 am

‘Does a dark lantern give out black light?’ asked my husband as if in delirium. He was reading a book…

Why the OED says ‘coloured’ is offensive

16 March 2019 9:00 am

‘The term coloured, is an outdated, offensive and revealing choice of words,’ tweeted Diane Abbott last week in response to Amber…

‘One fell swoop’ has become a cliche, but where does it come from?

9 March 2019 9:00 am

The Sun, reviewing a new laptop from Huawei, mentioned a combined fingerprint sensor and on-switch that lets users ‘power up and…

Where on earth does ‘kibosh’ come from?

2 March 2019 9:00 am

‘What is a kibosh?’ asked a German medical friend of my husband’s, when the word cropped up. No one knew,…

Can you really interrogate a plate? Credit: istockphoto.com

There’s a lot of interrogating going on – and not just by policemen

23 February 2019 9:00 am

My husband sat in his usual chair, interrogating the contents of his whisky glass with his old, tired nose. In…

What the sports pages mean by ‘marquee’?

16 February 2019 9:00 am

Ordinarily my husband is punctilious in keeping the pages of the Telegraph straight, especially when it is read by other…

Word of the week: Chronograms

9 February 2019 9:00 am

Jan Morris in her book Oxford enjoyed the Greek lettering on the floor of the rotunda entrance to Rhodes House,…

Names, like drink, go by fashion

2 February 2019 9:00 am

‘Sounds like fun,’ said my husband, wearing a hat with the sign ‘Irony’ in its band. He had read a…

There’s something grotesque about the jargon of Universal Credit

26 January 2019 9:00 am

The government (if it hasn’t fallen yet) has found difficulty moving people onto Universal Credit from the benefits that they…

What lies behind John Bercow’s use of the word ‘colleagues’?

19 January 2019 9:00 am

The parliamentary press gallery has in the past given a pair of silver shoe buckles to the Speaker as a…

Illeism: the weird habit of talking about oneself in the third person

12 January 2019 9:00 am

Someone has been putting about reports that Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, refers to himself in the third person as…

Word of the week: Moral hazard

5 January 2019 9:00 am

‘Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads,’ said my husband, tossing an imaginary coin. The same improbability was amusing when Rosencrantz won the…

Word of the year: shouty

15 December 2018 9:00 am

‘Remind me what incel means again,’ said my husband. There was no point, since he’d forgotten twice already. I suspected…

The real reason people say ‘I text him’ instead of ‘I texted’ him

8 December 2018 9:00 am

Martin Allen has written with a very interesting question. It follows on from his initial query, which is why people…

Word of the week: ‘Granular’, a word used to suggest in-depth analysis

1 December 2018 9:00 am

‘Just two sugars,’ said my husband as I passed him his tea. He is cutting down. I doubt he would…

Word of the week: ‘cakeism’

24 November 2018 9:00 am

Latest despatches from the Dictionary Wars bring news of Oxford’s words of the year, a counterblast to last week’s words…

Collins dictionary has got ‘gammon’ all wrong

17 November 2018 9:00 am

In the annual dictionary wars to nominate words of the year, in the hope of attracting publicity, Collins has made…

At sixes and sevens about seven and six

10 November 2018 9:00 am

Someone on the wireless was talking about marrying in the Liberty of Newgate before the Marriage Act of 1753, and…

Getting on – and falling off – the wagon

3 November 2018 9:00 am

Radio 3 tries to distract listeners from music by posing little quizzes and hearing quirky details of history from a…

The polite origins of the police

27 October 2018 9:00 am

My husband, who fancies himself as something of a classicist, was delighted to see the Turkish investigators of the Khashoggi…

Mind your language: Woman, women, womxn

20 October 2018 9:00 am

When I say that it has given comfort to my husband, you can judge how foolish the Wellcome Institute was…

To avoid knowing the distasteful origin of ‘scumbag’, look away now

13 October 2018 9:00 am

President Vladimir Putin of Russia remarked of Sergei Skripal, whom his agents tried to kill, ‘He’s simply a scumbag.’ Scumbag…

Was everyone a psychopath before 1909?

6 October 2018 9:00 am

My husband is enjoying Do No Harm, the arresting memoir of the brain surgeon Henry Marsh who was on Desert…

Why ‘embolden’ is a word in a million — and it’s currently in vogue

29 September 2018 9:00 am

Embolden is a word in a million. In other words it is quite common. Using data from Google Books, the…

Why ‘whiter than white’shouldn’t get you suspended

22 September 2018 9:00 am

A detective superintendent has been placed on ‘restricted duties’ while the Independent Office for Police Conduct investigates a complaint that…