Language

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,…

My French lesson has taken a most unexpected turn

3 April 2021 9:00 am

‘Alas, David can’t be here this afternoon,’ I told the French teacher as she let me into her light and…

‘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…

How to kill the English language

20 March 2021 9:00 am

Probably, most of you will have only the dimmest idea what a ‘fronted adverbial’ is. I used one in 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…

‘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…

The economics of learning languages

27 February 2021 9:00 am

There is a kind of conversation which sounds intelligent, and which makes sense at first hearing, but which deeper thought…

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…

My French lessons with Lord Nelson

20 February 2021 9:00 am

Every Friday afternoon the foreign correspondent and I attend a French lady’s home for our one-hour French lesson. The foreign…

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…

Are we returning to ‘normalcy’ or ‘normality’?

30 January 2021 9:00 am

New normal Why have so many people started saying ‘normalcy’ rather than ‘normality’? — Normalcy has been traced back to…

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,…

The ancient belief in the power of words to protect us

16 January 2021 9:00 am

In his 37-book Natural History, Pliny the Elder (d. ad 79) wondered why we wished people ‘Happy new year’ (primum…

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…