Dot Wordsworth

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.…

Syndromes: they have made their escape from the medical world

9 December 2017 9:00 am

‘You must have Tired Old Woman Syndrome,’ said my husband as I fell back into an armchair with a sigh…

Can the beer-bike take on the Boris-bike?

2 December 2017 9:00 am

In Amsterdam the courts have given leave to ban the bierfiets. Fiets is the Dutch for ‘bike’. (The plural is fietsen.)…

When Kingsley Amis needed a new insult, he reached for the taboo

25 November 2017 9:00 am

‘It’s up there on the shelf you can’t reach,’ said my husband in an unhelpfully helpful tone. The ‘it’ was…

What two little words that combine virtue signalling and denunciation?

18 November 2017 9:00 am

The inventor of the verse form known as the clerihew, Edmund Clerihew Bentley, had a way with this seemingly simple…

Is your conduct unacceptably inappropriate – or inappropriately unacceptable?

11 November 2017 9:00 am

‘When is physical contact “unacceptable”?’ asked Charles Moore in the Daily Telegraph. He may well ask. Sir Michael Fallon said…

Medicine

4 November 2017 9:00 am

John Farquhar of Salisbury writes to say he is irritated. He is not just irritated, he has long been long…

The

28 October 2017 9:00 am

Veronica, who looks at Twitter, told me of an exchange she thought would interest me, about the use of the.…

Einstein vs Weinstein

21 October 2017 9:00 am

Before I forget, I was cheered by the letter from Keith Aitken in last week’s issue noting another sense for…

Not so much

14 October 2017 9:00 am

‘Kiss me mucho,’ sang my husband with a revolting leer, ‘and we’ll soar. And we’ll dance the dance of love…

Tube

7 October 2017 9:00 am

When George Eliot wrote ‘The tube-journey can never lend much to picture and narrative,’ she was not making an observant…

Boo

30 September 2017 9:00 am

In 1872, the 27-stone figure of the Tichborne Claimant was insisting he was Sir Roger Tichborne Bt, an heir thought…

Shocking bad hat

23 September 2017 9:00 am

My husband complains that the disposition of teenagers in London is one of mocking hostility. I seem to suffer less…

Gorblimey trousers

16 September 2017 9:00 am

Piles of black plastic rubbish sacks lie in the streets of Birmingham because, since the end of June, the dustmen…

Go ballistic

9 September 2017 9:00 am

I had always thought that to go ballistic was the same as to go nuclear, metaphorically. But the ballistic figure…

Bacteria

2 September 2017 9:00 am

It’s like whipping cream. All of a sudden it goes stiff and you can turn the bowl upside down without…