Dot Wordsworth

Rocket the salad leaf has more to do with hedgehogs than fireworks

18 February 2017 9:00 am

‘It is rocket science,’ said my husband waving a pinnately lobed leaf snatched from his restaurant salad. He doesn’t much…

Why it’s time to abandon ‘trope’

11 February 2017 9:00 am

A law I’d like to see passed would exact severe penalties for the use of the word trope. It is…

Italians’ creative way with their trendy English words

4 February 2017 9:00 am

Waiting for my husband in a Rome hotel, I was reduced to reading some of the weekend newspaper supplements. The…

Sorry, President Trump, but ‘carnage’ means there has to be blood

28 January 2017 9:00 am

‘This carnage stops here,’ declared the headline in the Daily Telegraph, quoting President Donald Trump’s inauguration speech. My husband tried…

A misspelt star of the FTSE 100

21 January 2017 9:00 am

‘Look, darling, a spelling mistake,’ said my husband, looking out of the window, as he had been for minutes, like…

The secret society that made ‘nativist’ an insult

14 January 2017 9:00 am

The title of America’s first woman bishop was claimed in 1918 by Bishop Alma White, leader of the Pillar of…

Eight Americanisms you won’t be able to avoid in 2017

7 January 2017 9:00 am

Here are eight invasive Americanisms to continue annoying us in 2017. Running for office. Liz Kendall was ‘running for the…

Uh-oh: even a baby can tell you when there’s trouble ahead

31 December 2016 9:00 am

Here are the first 50 words in the order that they were learnt by a child called Will: 1 uh-oh;…

My word of the year is... ‘Yeah’

10 December 2016 9:00 am

My husband has an irritating habit of holding his hymn book open at the right page but obviously not referring…

Why I’m a convert to singular ‘they’

3 December 2016 9:00 am

‘When I asked the bank,’ said my husband, ‘they were no help at all.’ My attention was distracted from his…

Oxford dictionaries are talking nonsense on stilts about fear of clowns

26 November 2016 9:00 am

There’s something suspicious about the name for a fear of clowns which was on the shortlist of words of the…

The secrets of the Queen’s Sword of Mercy

19 November 2016 9:00 am

At the Queen’s Coronation, the Duke of Northumberland carried the Sword of Mercy called Cortana. I mention this for three…

Hygge: the most annoying word of the year

12 November 2016 9:00 am

‘If there’s one thing I can’t stand,’ said my husband, ‘it’s scented candles.’ Now, we have never knowingly harboured a…

No one is safe from ‘post-Brexit’

5 November 2016 9:00 am

Staring at a brown envelope, my husband said: ‘I’ll deal with that post-breakfast,’ and then laughed as though he had…

When jargon is essential

29 October 2016 9:00 am

I’m very glad I followed a friend’s recommendation to read The Bird of Dawning by John Masefield, an author neglected…

The origins of Marmite and Bovril

22 October 2016 9:00 am

‘How can Bovril be suitable for vegetarians?’ asked my husband. ‘Bo- comes from bos, Latin for an ox.’ He was…

Polari a ‘secret language’? Nonsense

15 October 2016 9:00 am

Of the contribution to English that Polari is claimed to have brought, perhaps naff is the most current-sounding. An older…

I was wrong about ‘critique’. You may be too

8 October 2016 9:00 am

‘Americans,’ said my husband in much the same tone that Betsey Trotwood said ‘Donkeys’. It was his way of explaining…

Home is where is the hearth is

1 October 2016 9:00 am

Home is where the heart is, but some poor languages have no word for ‘home’. For them, home is where…

Niche: an English word that turned into a French one

24 September 2016 9:00 am

Jonathan Swift, in his satirical poem ‘An Epistle to a Lady’, says modestly: ‘If I can but fill my Nitch,/…

What do you say to someone who is killing you?

17 September 2016 9:00 am

What do you say to someone who is killing you? It is seldom possible to decide in advance. We are…

Four Gruffalos, one language? The strange case of Scots

10 September 2016 9:00 am

I’d seen The Gruffalo in Latin, so I was delighted when Veronica showed me a version her daughter had been…

Where ‘taxi’ really came from

3 September 2016 9:00 am

Old Quentin Letts was on the wireless the other day asking ‘What’s the point of the London black cab?’ Between…

What the OED gets wrong about pelican pie

27 August 2016 9:00 am

Revisers of OED have made a pig’s ear of pelican pie, I fear. I’ve been reading for pleasure Peter Gilliver’s…

Who’s afraid of Chrononhotonthologos?

20 August 2016 9:00 am

When I ran out of space last week, I was about to mention the way in which some people relish…