Mind your language

The word ‘like’ is in crisis

6 March 2021 9:00 am

‘Blame Kingsley Amis,’ said my husband, with the carelessness of one defying a man out of earshot. The blame, such…

‘Espouse’ has become divorced from its meaning

27 February 2021 9:00 am

What do people think espouse means? It looks fairly plain, since spouses are to have and to hold, or indeed…

From bread to Kate Bingham: the evolution of ‘nimble’

20 February 2021 9:00 am

‘I’ll stick to being Brazilian,’ said my husband. It was a family joke. Every time a politician on the radio…

The rudeness of calling Jane Austen by her surname

13 February 2021 9:00 am

I agree with Charles Moore (The Spectator, 6 February) that it is a shame the Times is dropping its use…

The dark roots of ‘grim’

6 February 2021 9:00 am

‘Thus I refute Bishop Berkeley,’ said my husband, multitasking by kicking the stone and slightly misquoting Samuel Johnson at the…

What should you put at the end of an email?

30 January 2021 9:00 am

Suzanne Moore, the Telegraphcolumnist, found it ‘deeply annoying’ when perhaps five years ago she noticed people putting ‘Kind regards’ at…

The small world of Polari

23 January 2021 9:00 am

In discussing the German low-life cant called Rotwelsch, Mark Glanville (Books, 9 January) referred in passing to Polari, ‘the language…

Boris Johnson’s face can’t be ‘performative’

16 January 2021 9:00 am

Veronica brought me a hundred newspapers so that I could check on one word. Well, she didn’t bring a wheelbarrow,…

Why oranges don’t have ‘segments’

9 January 2021 9:00 am

In the aisle of Tesco I stood like one thunderstruck. It was not the print of a man’s naked foot…

The word of the year (whether we like it or not)

19 December 2020 9:00 am

In 2015 smombie became the Youth Word of the Year in Germany. In January 2016 a survey found that 92…

The unfortunate misuse of ‘fortuitous’

12 December 2020 9:00 am

‘Try the sports pages,’ said my husband, stirring in his armchair. I was looking for examples of fortuitousused as though…

The strange language of this year

5 December 2020 9:00 am

‘Forget coronavirus,’ said my husband, ‘the word of the year is strange.’ The strange thing is he’s right. This wasn’t…

Do civil servants need to be 'robust' or 'resilient'?

28 November 2020 9:00 am

‘Why do they keep saying they need Brazilians?’ asked my husband, coming up for air from a hazy mixture of…

The language of lounging around

21 November 2020 9:00 am

At the Austrian embassy in Naples, a German diplomatist asked the great beauty Madame de Ventadour if she had been…

What’s the difference between ‘gifting’ and ‘giving’?

14 November 2020 9:00 am

Boris Johnson, the Telegraphsuggested last week, is understood to have a personal interest in rewilding, ‘recently gifting his father beavers…

Alas, ‘alas’ is losing its irony

7 November 2020 9:00 am

Boris Johnson looked unhappy, as well he might, standing at his indoor lectern last Saturday to announce the new lockdown:…

The real problem with the Fatima advert

31 October 2020 9:00 am

An advertisement from GCHQ provoked angry comment because it seemed to suggest that some ballet dancers would be better working…

The truth about Adrenochrome

24 October 2020 9:00 am

QAnon, the conspiracy theorist’s conspiracy theory, teaches that President Donald Trump is in secret warfare with a worldwide network of…

Are you guilty of ‘genteelism’?

17 October 2020 9:00 am

‘Everyone’s been very kind to my husband and I,’ said someone behind me in a (spaced) queue. That is the…

Let’s talk about sex: the brilliance of ‘bonk’

10 October 2020 9:00 am

I take it personally that a word I practically saw being born is now unrecognised by people almost old enough…

Ask Jeeves: who first came out with ‘What ho’?

3 October 2020 9:00 am

In the First Act of Othello, just as things are getting interesting, the audience hears someone calling from offstage: ‘What…

Where did ‘herd immunity’ come from?

26 September 2020 9:00 am

‘It was the pyres,’ said my husband. He meant the effect of television pictures of cattle, hooves silhouetted against the…

How a ‘back’ gets confused for a ‘bat’

19 September 2020 9:00 am

My husband may not often be right, but he had some cogent criticism of the much-quoted words of Geoffrey Howe…

From Covid to football, the rise in ‘upticks’

12 September 2020 9:00 am

Political commentators love talking about the optics — the way something looks to voters. Just at the moment, though, everyone…

The hijacking of the Scots language

5 September 2020 9:00 am

A teenager in North Carolina has been revealed as the creator of a fifth or even a half of the…