Language

The real contest at Eurovision: worst lyric

30 May 2015 9:00 am

Like a reluctantly remembered nightmare, last week’s Eurovision Song Contest already seems very distant. But, in the manner of the…

That irritating use of ‘progressive’ is more than a century old

16 May 2015 9:00 am

I was interested by the widespread annoyance at the use of progressive by the lefty parties before the election. Irritation…

Why do politicians go potty for ‘passion’?

18 April 2015 9:00 am

‘I long for spontaneous passion but I will never get it with my husband because I think he has Asperger…

The new Fowler still won’t grasp the nettle on ‘they’

4 April 2015 8:00 am

I’ve been having a lovely time splashing about in the new Fowler. It has been revised by Jeremy Butterfield, an…

Where ‘poop’ came from

28 March 2015 9:00 am

Danny Alexander recounted in the Diary last week his daughter’s efforts in making unicorn poop. This is something of a…

The lost words of John Aubrey, from apricate to scobberlotcher

21 March 2015 9:00 am

Hilary Spurling found a certain blunting of the irregularities of John Aubrey’s language in Ruth Scurr’s vicarious autobiography of the…

Are you negatively impacted by business-speak? It’s time to escalate

14 March 2015 9:00 am

Maureen Finucane of Richmond, Surrey, wonders whether there is any branch of public service not infected by Orwellian Newspeak. In…

How long is it since anniversaries stopped being measured in years?

7 March 2015 9:00 am

‘You must promise to be with us for our silver wedding D.V. which will be in four years,’ wrote Queen…

‘Robust’, busted

28 February 2015 9:00 am

‘Heart of Oak are our ships, Jolly Tars are our men,’ shouted my husband unconvincingly. He has taken to doing…

Ha! vs Hahaha: the surprisingly subtle world of Twitter style

7 February 2015 9:00 am

I don’t know if you tweet — No! Don’t turn over, I’m not going to get all techie. I do…

What Benedict Cumberbatch didn’t understand about ‘coloured’

31 January 2015 9:00 am

Benedict Cumberbatch apologised at length: ‘devastated’, ‘shaming’, ‘offended’, ‘inappropriate’. What had he done? Been caught in a compromising situation or…

How to stop being scared of full stops

24 January 2015 9:00 am

Modern manners and the fear of the full stop

The changing meaning of 'prolific', from Orwell to the Premier League

17 January 2015 9:00 am

I read somewhere recently of a Soho artist who was a ‘prolific drinker’. The meaning is clear, but hasn’t the…

Check yourself: have you succumbed to this corporate speak epidemic?

10 January 2015 9:00 am

Is there any cure for this piece of corporate speak?

What parenting meant in 1914

10 January 2015 9:00 am

‘Not still War and Peace!’ exclaimed my husband on 1 January during the all-day Tolstoy splurge on Radio 4. In reality…

How ‘data’ became like ‘butter’

3 January 2015 9:00 am

Someone on Radio 4 said she had heard about the sexism of Grand Theft Auto on ‘Women’s Hour’. It is…

Does Joey Essex know what ‘reem’ actually means?

22 November 2014 9:00 am

Joey Essex is a celebrity who appeared in the ‘scripted reality’ programme The Only Way is Essex, named not after…

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…

What’s good for the goose is bad for the proverb

18 October 2014 9:00 am

‘Goosey, goosey gander,’ my husband shouted at the television, like someone from Gogglebox. It’s not so much that he thinks…

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…

How did Mark Reckless get his surname?

4 October 2014 9:00 am

When I first heard ‘Wonderwall’ being played in a public house, in 1995 I suppose, I thought it was some…

The rhetorical power of ‘never’, from Ian Paisley to King Lear

20 September 2014 9:00 am

He won’t be remembered as Lord Bannside, but Ian Paisley will be remembered for shouting: ‘Never, never, never, never.’ The…

Knee-jerkers vs knee-tremblers

13 September 2014 9:00 am

A little joke by Paddy, Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, turned upon something to be shunned. Conservative ministers, he said, had…

‘Escalate’: an exciting new way to say ‘pass the buck’

6 September 2014 9:00 am

Shaun Wright, the police and crime commissioner for South Yorkshire, spoke to Sky television last week about how little he…

A bitter struggle with the dictionary

30 August 2014 9:00 am

‘Don’t mind if I do,’ is one of husband’s stock phrases — jokes he would think them — in this…