Language

What’s humanitarian about a humanitarian crisis?

23 August 2014 9:00 am

‘Our first priority,’ David Cameron said this week, ‘has of course been to deal with the acute humanitarian crisis in…

Is Boris Johnson standing for Parliament — or running for it?

16 August 2014 9:00 am

‘Boris Johnson broke cover yesterday to declare that he will run for parliament,’ the Times reported last week. The Mirror…

Should you be prejudiced against ‘pre-’?

9 August 2014 9:00 am

‘Pre-diabetes is an artificial category with virtually zero clinical relevance,’ said an American professor in the Times. A friend of…

The bloody battle for the name Isis

28 June 2014 9:00 am

‘This’ll make you laugh,’ said my husband, looking up from the Daily Telegraph. For once he was right. It was…

The sinister new meaning of ‘support’

31 May 2014 9:00 am

When I asked my husband why paramedical professions were given to remaking the language in strange ways, he replied in…

‘Basta’ must be the Queen’s English — a Queen used it

24 May 2014 9:00 am

My chickens do not usually come home to roost so rapidly. Only a fortnight ago I wrote that ‘some people use…

How DO you pronounce 'Marylebone'? 

17 May 2014 9:00 am

‘Take a trip to Marylebone station,’ chanted my husband. ‘Do not pass Go. Do not collect £200.’ I had been…

What the French now mean when they say ‘bugger’

10 May 2014 9:00 am

The French for tête-à-tête is one-to-one now, according to a new survey of English invaders by Alexandre des Isnards. Actually,…

Why –y? The evolution of a suffix

3 May 2014 9:00 am

Hitler was ‘dark, shouty, moustachioed’ in Churchill’s eyes, or rather, that was Jonathan Rose’s view of how Churchill saw Hitler,…

Spectator letters: Interpreting Islam, and Spectator-reading thieves

5 April 2014 9:00 am

Chapter and verse on Islam Sir: Irshad Manji’s generally very sensible article on ‘Reclaiming Islam’ (29 March) suggests using the…

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…

When did we stop ‘tossing’ coins?

29 March 2014 9:00 am

What kind of scientists do school inspectors not need to be? ‘Inspectors don’t need to be rocket scientists.’ For what…

Very bad poems on the Underground

8 March 2014 9:00 am

My husband was surprised by quite a bit when we travelled by Underground in London the other day. Although he…

When Scotland goes, will England return?

22 February 2014 9:00 am

Who, my husband asked, expects every man will do his duty? He was responding to the interesting and important question…

Warning: upspeak can wreck your career

15 February 2014 9:00 am

Upspeak can damage your career prospects

A learned poet's mystifying mistakes

15 February 2014 9:00 am

I enjoy Poetry Please, but was shouting mildly at the wireless the other day when a northern woman poet was…

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…

Big changes in little words

1 February 2014 9:00 am

I managed to grab the TLS last week before my husband stuffed it in his overcoat pocket and lost it…

Where did ‘No justice, no peace’ come from?

18 January 2014 9:00 am

The chant No justice, no peace by supporters of Mark Duggan, the drug gangster shot dead by police in 2011,…

Dot Wordsworth: How online shopping is changing English

11 January 2014 9:00 am

How do you play the lottery? The National Lottery website has a handy guide. Step No. 1 is: ‘Go into…

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…

Dot Wordsworth's week in words: Did William Empson have the first clue what 'bare ruined choirs' meant?

5 October 2013 9:00 am

I am shocked to find that William Empson, famous for his technique of close reading, was no good at reading…

Dot Wordsworth: We've been self-whipping since 1672

7 September 2013 9:00 am

Isabel Hardman of this parish explained after last week’s government defeat that a deluded theory among the party leadership had…

Letters: GPs reply to J. Merion Thomas

24 August 2013 9:00 am

Some doctors write Sir: Professor Meirion Thomas (‘Dangerous medicine’, 17 August) may be an excellent surgeon but he is uninformed…

After ‘literally’, is it time to start a Neighbourhood Watch for the OED?

24 August 2013 9:00 am

There was outrage last week when it was found that the Oxford English Dictionary had listed one sense of literally…