Words

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…

The shocking story of Charles and Mary Lamb: Slightly Foxed podcast reviewed

7 November 2020 9:00 am

The Slightly Foxed podcast, like the quarterly and old bookshop of the same name, is almost muskily lovely. It’s the…

Are you guilty of ‘genteelism’?

17 October 2020 9:00 am

‘Everyone’s been very kind to my husband and I,’ said someone behind me in a (spaced) queue. That is the…

What’s the difference between ‘reticent’ and ‘reluctant’?

29 August 2020 9:00 am

Anna Massey had no dramatic training before appearing on stage in 1955 aged 17 in The Reluctant Debutante by William…

How ‘odd’ became normal

2 May 2020 9:00 am

‘Is this not the oddest news?’ Harriet Smith exclaimed to Emma Woodhouse, on the news that Jane Fairfax and Frank…

What does it mean to go ‘stir crazy’?

18 April 2020 9:00 am

My husband left a copy of The Spectator open on the table by his chair, next to the little cardboard…

Why we can’t count toast

7 March 2020 9:00 am

‘Somebody loves me,’ said my husband, waving a copy of The Spectator above his head as though pursued by wasps.…

What were the words that defined 2019?

21 December 2019 9:00 am

‘Come off it,’ said my husband when I told him that upcycling was the word of the year. His response…

What’s the different between ‘while’ and ‘whilst’?

9 November 2019 9:00 am

‘Why is whilst only ever used in letters?’ asked my husband, casting aside an argumentative letter from his sister written…

The joys of Radio 4’s Word of Mouth

31 August 2019 9:00 am

I first heard Lemn Sissay talking about his childhood experiences on Radio 4 in 2009. At that time he was…

Lib Dem MEP Luisa Porritt in the European Parliament last week (Twitter)

The Lib Dems are wrong – it’s ‘ballocks’ to Brexit

13 July 2019 9:00 am

I agree with James Joyce on the spelling ballocks. The Liberal Democrats made their MEPs wear T-shirts printed with ‘Bollocks…

Why is a book like a sarcophagus?

25 May 2019 9:00 am

‘Is it like a packet of fags?’ asked my husband, less annoyingly than usual, but still in some confusion. I…

Can you really interrogate a plate? Credit: istockphoto.com

There’s a lot of interrogating going on – and not just by policemen

23 February 2019 9:00 am

My husband sat in his usual chair, interrogating the contents of his whisky glass with his old, tired nose. In…

Names, like drink, go by fashion

2 February 2019 9:00 am

‘Sounds like fun,’ said my husband, wearing a hat with the sign ‘Irony’ in its band. He had read a…

Why won’t the media call a cock a cock?

19 March 2016 9:00 am

On the Radio 4 news at 11 o’clock last Saturday morning there was a joky report about roosters in Brisbane. The…

Michael Frayn’s new book is the most highbrow TV sketch show ever

1 November 2014 9:00 am

Enough of big ideas and grand designs. Instead, here are 30 unusually small ideas from the giant pulsating brain of…