Etymology

The poetry behind ‘leather and prunella’

24 July 2021 9:00 am

‘Oh, yes,’ said my husband, enthusiastically, ‘a loathsome disease. The tongue goes black and dry.’ He was referring to an…

The ding-dong over being ‘pinged’

17 July 2021 9:00 am

‘Ping, ping, ping went the bell,’ sang my husband, making his eyes wide and jigging in his best imitation of…

Does it matter if Priti Patel drops her Gs?

3 July 2021 9:00 am

In 1923 in Whose Body? we were introduced to Lord Peter Wimsey on his way to an auction where he…

Critical thinking: the difference between ‘critique’ and ‘criticise’

26 June 2021 9:00 am

Six years ago I wrote here about critique, as a noun or verb, and things have gone from bad to…

Critical issue: the complex language of gender

19 June 2021 9:00 am

Seeing my husband in his armchair snoozing, as his unacknowledged habit is, head back, mouth open, stertorous and blotchy, it…

The difference between ‘sliver’ and ‘slither’ is a piece of cake

12 June 2021 9:00 am

When people say a slither of cake, do they not remember that snakes slither? ‘Slither slide; sliver small piece,’ says…

Are we overusing ‘overhaul’?

5 June 2021 9:00 am

Last week, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer were overhauling their stores. Football clubs were madly overhauling teams and we…

How the Great British Bake Off inspired Great British Railways

29 May 2021 9:00 am

‘Why didn’t they call it Very British Railways?’ asked my husband. Unwittingly (as in most of his remarks), he had…

‘Level’ has a bumpy history

22 May 2021 9:00 am

‘I must level with you, level with the British public, many more families are going to lose loved ones.’ That…

The dirty truth about ‘sleaze’

1 May 2021 9:00 am

‘Sleaze, sleaze, sleaze!’ exclaimed Sir Keir Starmer in Prime Minister’s Questions last week, hoping that a triple serving might stick.…

What’s so great about ‘super’?

24 April 2021 9:00 am

‘Wizard,’ said William. ‘Super,’ said Ginger, in William and the Moon Rocket (1954). More recently we have had Alex Salmond,…

The uncomfortable truth about ‘shonky’

10 April 2021 9:00 am

A reader sent in a television preview from the Daily Star for Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds in which ‘Brad Pitt leads…

Where did Alex Salmond’s ‘Alba’ party get its name from?

3 April 2021 9:00 am

‘What, old monkey-face!’ said my husband with unnecessary lack of gallantry. He was referring to the 18th Duchess of Alba,…

‘Sacred space’ has become a crowded marketplace

20 March 2021 9:00 am

‘This is the book that horses wish every equestrian would read,’ says the blurb for Sacred Spaces: Communion with the…

The concrete truth about ‘Formica’

13 March 2021 9:00 am

If I ever again accompany my husband to a medical conference in Spain, and want to tell my hosts that…

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…

Beware the linguistic Trojan horse

27 February 2021 9:00 am

It’s the bane of many an author these days: those newspaper-filler Q&As. One I recently filled out included the question:…

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…