Dot Wordsworth

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…

Honorificabilitudinity: the very tall story of a very long word

13 August 2016 9:00 am

My husband told me with glee that Nicholas Byfield had a great big stone ‘like flint’ in his bladder, weighing…

Whatever happened to dustcarts?

6 August 2016 9:00 am

Bin lorries and garbage trucks have routed the old southern English term

Although its use goes back 500 years, we could do with less ‘wow!’ factor

30 July 2016 9:00 am

Veronica has become quite an addict of Twitter, just as the rest of the young are forsaking it. ‘It’s easy…

Words the Oxford English Dictionary struggles to define

23 July 2016 9:00 am

What is a bee? ‘A well-known insect,’ says the Oxford English Dictionary, passing the buck rather. Similarly, an ash is…

The gig economy and why steady jobs are more recent than you think

16 July 2016 9:00 am

In the same song where the brilliant lyricist Ian Dury gave the world the couplet, ‘I could be a writer…

It’s not sexist to say ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’

9 July 2016 9:00 am

Bustle, an online newspaper ‘for and by women’, has published ‘six common phrases you didn’t know were sexist (that you’ll…

Why the plural of ‘referendum’ must be ‘referendums’

2 July 2016 9:00 am

‘One referendum, two referenda,’ chanted my husband. ‘No, no, it’s a gerund. The English plural is referendums,’ interrupted Veronica, red…

Do you know the meaning of Burchfield’s eight hard words?

25 June 2016 8:00 am

I was humiliated in trying to make out the meaning of eight hard words. See how you do: claustration, edulcoration,…

The original Little Englanders were anti-imperialists

18 June 2016 9:00 am

In the art of insult, the sting lies in the adjective, no matter how derogatory the noun. So it is…

Harry Tate

The surprising history of ‘How’s your father’

11 June 2016 9:00 am

‘Very funny, I don’t think,’ said my husband when I mentioned Harry Tate, although Tate died in 1940 and even…

Vilma Banky and Walter Byron sit down with producer Sam Goldwyn to discuss the script of their latest film 'The Awakening'.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Include me out of this grammatical atrocity

4 June 2016 9:00 am

Just as, in writing, many people use an exclamation mark to indicate that they have made a joke, so there…


Word of the week: 'concept'

28 May 2016 9:00 am

‘It was nothing special, but it was a pub,’ said my husband, looking up from his copy of Bar magazine…

Are exclamation marks still vulgar? Yes!

21 May 2016 9:00 am

‘Like eating in the street,’ said my husband. Astonishing! He’d said something not only coherent in itself but also connected…

The true meaning of Sadiq Khan’s claims to virtue

14 May 2016 9:00 am

The new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said he wanted ‘the most transparent, honest and accessible administration London has ever…

The dirty jokes that tell us how Shakespeare spoke

7 May 2016 9:00 am

Sir John Harington told a story in 1596 about a lady at court asking her gentlewoman to inquire which Mr…

A puzzle for President Obama: is it really that British to queue?

30 April 2016 9:00 am

The language that President Barack Obama used was evidence of skulduggery, Nigel Farage declared. ‘The UK is gonna be in…

Sorry, but saying ‘sex worker’ won’t lift the stigma

23 April 2016 9:00 am

‘Of course,’ said my husband in his worst smirky way, as though waiting for an appreciative chuckle, ‘as soon as…

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the shifting meaning of ‘illegitimate’

16 April 2016 9:00 am

‘The Archbishop of Canterbury has discovered he is the illegitimate son of Sir Winston Churchill’s last private secretary,’ Charles Moore…


The tangled story of dreadlocks, from Milton to YouTube

9 April 2016 9:00 am

‘Why are you filming this?’ ‘For everyone’s safety.’ Those are the last words in a 46-second video that was watched…

(Photo: Getty)

Mind your language: From body fluids to ‘gender fluid’

2 April 2016 9:00 am

Benjamin Franklin thought that an excess of electric fluid gave rise to positive electricity, and a deficiency of the fluid…

Is it a bird? Is it a sofa? The secret history of ‘butterbump’

26 March 2016 9:00 am

‘Still I’m called Buttercup —poor little Buttercup,’ sang my husband in an inappropriate and displeasing baritone. Not wishing to encourage…

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…

Photo taken 10 December 1992 in Ayodhya of boys ru

Save the innocent swastika!

12 March 2016 9:00 am

There is a nice row of swastikas at head height in Burlington Gardens, behind the Royal Academy. They are carved…