Language

What exactly is the ‘festive season’?

9 October 2021 9:00 am

‘Here you are, darling,’ I said to my husband. ‘These lines might have been written for you: “Drinke, quaffe, be…

We are in a perfect storm of perfect storms

2 October 2021 9:00 am

When my husband’s whisky glass fell off the little table next to his chair on to next door’s cat, which…

The problem with ‘bame’

25 September 2021 9:00 am

In its coverage of the shuffled cabinet, the BBC added a note: ‘BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) is a…

What does Peter Quennell have to do with fish?

11 September 2021 9:00 am

When Peter Quennell was sent down from Oxford for consorting with a woman called Cara (by Evelyn Waugh’s account), he…

How Shakespeare became ‘problematic’

4 September 2021 9:00 am

‘This crossword is problematic!’ exclaimed my husband, tossing aside the folded newspaper marked with a ring where his whisky glass…

The timeless appeal of Latin

14 August 2021 9:00 am

The government’s promise to fund a pilot scheme promoting the teaching of Latin in secondary schools is music to the…

The dramatic evolution of ‘actor’

14 August 2021 9:00 am

‘That chap in Line of Duty. That’s what I’d call a bad actor,’ said my husband with vague certainty. He…

The dirty truth about ‘wash-up’

7 August 2021 9:00 am

‘They asked me if I wanted to wash up before we even went in to dinner,’ my husband recalled with…

Double dutch: the many meanings of ‘Holland’

31 July 2021 9:00 am

The title of the keenly awaited volume of memoirs by John Martin Robinson sounds like a crossword clue: Holland Blind…

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…

Do the England team play football, footer, footie – or soccer?

10 July 2021 9:00 am

I have never been a soccer mom, described in the Washington Post as ‘the overburdened, middle-income working mother who ferries…

Why the mangling of language matters

10 July 2021 9:00 am

I thought that this week I would share with you a bunch of words and phrases which are currently overused…

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…

A sex education from Aristophanes

5 June 2021 9:00 am

The publication of the new Cambridge Greek Lexicon reminded the comedian and classicist Natalie Haynes of her frustrations at school,…

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…

Shakespeare didn’t need to know the difference between ‘its’ and ‘it’s’

15 May 2021 9:00 am

An item on the BBC news site didn’t mean what it said: ‘The latest move is part of a wider…

The insidious creep of corporate friendliness

8 May 2021 9:00 am

The insidious creep of corporate friendliness

‘Religious literacy’ rules risk gagging the press

8 May 2021 9:00 am

There should be more ‘religious literacy’. So says the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Religion in the Media, chaired by Yasmin…

The importance of gossip (according to the ancients)

8 May 2021 9:00 am

Gossip appears to be good for the mental health. That should make the females of the ancient world some of…