Language

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…

The shifting language of shame

8 May 2021 9:00 am

As his tweed jacket flapped open to one side of his stomach, my husband stood up unsteadily and arched his…

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.…

Do spelling and grammar still matter?

1 May 2021 9:00 am

Some universities have announced that spelling and grammar (i.e. morphology and syntax) are not all that important, but quality of…

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,…

How ‘ACAB’ links David Bowie and BLM

17 April 2021 9:00 am

A favourite piece of graffiti to spray on the Cenotaph or the plinth of Churchill’s nearby statue is ACAB. It…

America isn’t speaking our language

10 April 2021 9:00 am

I haven’t yet read the report published by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. But, looking at the recommendations,…

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,…