Etymology

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…

‘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:…

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

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…

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…

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…

Why 'safe' is Dot Wordsworth's word of the year

12 December 2015 9:00 am

‘Makes me feel sick,’ said my husband, referring not to the third mince pie of the morning (in Advent, supposedly…

The Spanish village that thought it was called ‘Kill Jews’

11 July 2015 9:00 am

A village has changed its name because it seemed offensive. But I think the villagers were under a misapprehension. The…

Trigger warning: this is an article about the word ‘trigger’

13 June 2015 9:00 am

A notion is going about that, just as readers of film reviews receive spoiler alerts, so readers of anything should…

Should ‘suicide’ mean pig-killing?

8 November 2014 9:00 am

There was a marvellous man in Shakespeare’s day known as John Smyth the Sebaptist. ‘In an act so deeply shocking…

How Ebola got its name

25 October 2014 9:00 am

It should perhaps be called Yambuku fever, since that was the village in Zaire (as it was then, now the…

The fascinating history of dullness

11 October 2014 9:00 am

At least I’ve got my husband’s Christmas present sorted out: the Dull Men of Great Britain calendar. It is no…

Origins of the toe-rag

19 July 2014 9:00 am

‘I am glad to say that I have never seen a toe-rag,’ said my husband, assuming, as unconvincingly as one…

Why did we ever spell jail gaol?

5 April 2014 9:00 am

‘Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect £200.’ said the Community Chest card…

Lumpen’s journey from Marxism to nonsense

8 February 2014 9:00 am

A publisher, Kevin Mayhew, has written to The Tablet, which is not a computer journal but a weekly magazine of…

Dot Wordsworth: Is M&S really 'Magic & Sparkle'?

16 November 2013 9:00 am

‘Believe in Magic & Sparkle,’ says the Marks & Spencer television Christmas advertisement. The phrase is meant to suggest the…