Mind Your Language

Mind your languagerss


What's in a universe?

19 April 2014

‘So there are lots of universes besides ours,’ the ancient atomists concluded, in the brief account by Peter Jones (Ancient and modern, 29 March). ‘Dot Wordsworth,’ he added cheerfully, ‘will… Read more

Ping – a silly word with a heroic history

12 April 2014

In the search for the remains of flight MH370, a pulse signal was detected beneath the ocean. The BBC called it a ‘ping’, in inverted commas on its website and… Read more


Why did we ever spell jail gaol?

5 April 2014

‘Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect £200.’ said the Community Chest card in Monopoly. I was never sure what a Community Chest… Read more

When did we stop ‘tossing’ coins?

29 March 2014

What kind of scientists do school inspectors not need to be? ‘Inspectors don’t need to be rocket scientists.’ For what must we make sure that the school inspection regime is… Read more

When Google can't help you

22 March 2014

‘Ask your telephone,’ said my husband satirically when I made an innocent enquiry on a point of fact. My telephone was having a little rest, since it had run out… Read more

How 'de-escalate' escalated

15 March 2014

‘What we want to see,’ David Cameron said last week, ‘is a de-escalation.’ Or, as the Tanaiste of Ireland put it: ‘If the Russian authorities do not de-escalate this crisis,… Read more

Very bad poems on the Underground

8 March 2014

My husband was surprised by quite a bit when we travelled by Underground in London the other day. Although he has a Nelson Mandela Memorial Freedom Pass, he seldom chooses… Read more

Why does everything suddenly need 'resilience'?

1 March 2014

They were talking on the wireless about Brazilians in the flooded areas, or so I thought. Once the kettle had finished boiling, it turned out that they wanted resilience in… Read more

When Scotland goes, will England return?

22 February 2014

Who, my husband asked, expects every man will do his duty? He was responding to the interesting and important question that Charles Moore raised last week about the name of… Read more

A learned poet's mystifying mistakes

15 February 2014

I enjoy Poetry Please, but was shouting mildly at the wireless the other day when a northern woman poet was using the whining intonation that some seem to think the… Read more

Lumpen’s journey from Marxism to nonsense

8 February 2014

A publisher, Kevin Mayhew, has written to The Tablet, which is not a computer journal but a weekly magazine of interest to Catholics, complaining that the newly revised translation of… Read more


Big changes in little words

1 February 2014

I managed to grab the TLS last week before my husband stuffed it in his overcoat pocket and lost it at his club. It had a very enjoyable review by… Read more

Challenging 'challenging'

25 January 2014

‘Pistols at dawn,’ said my husband, flapping a pair of Marigold rubber gloves from the other side of the kitchen. ‘I don’t want to know what you mean by that,’ I replied,… Read more

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

18 January 2014

The chant No justice, no peace by supporters of Mark Duggan, the drug gangster shot dead by police in 2011, sounded more like a threat than a prediction. No one… Read more


Dot Wordsworth: How online shopping is changing English

11 January 2014

How do you play the lottery? The National Lottery website has a handy guide. Step No. 1 is: ‘Go into a store.’ But in my experience, lottery tickets are sold… Read more


Dot Wordsworth: Lost in England? Ask for a bread roll

4 January 2014

If Manchester University is to be believed, last year saw a creeping advance of effete southern language into the gritty north. Roll, for example, is more widely accepted as the… Read more

(Photo: Getty)

Why twerking sounds so stupid

14 December 2013

The Widow Twankey first appeared on stage in 1861. At that time daily papers listed on Boxing Day dozens of novelty-stuffed pantomimes. But as far as I can make out, Aladdin, or,… Read more

Dot Wordsworth: Jostling aggressively with 'selfie' and 'twerk', we have 'push back'

7 December 2013

Something funny happened when my husband yawned. I yawned. That wasn’t the funny thing. The funny thing was that I recognised the chain reaction from somewhere else. It was from… Read more

Dot Wordsworth: Don't call him Revd Flowers!

30 November 2013

‘Here,’ said my husband, chucking a folded-back copy of the Daily Telegraph to me, ‘this’ll interest you.’ For once he was right. It was a reader’s letter. ‘My distress at… Read more


23 November 2013

Catching up with the excellent biography of the 3rd Marquess of Bute (the man who built Cardiff Castle among other eccentricities) by Rosemary Hannah, I came across this seasonal horror… Read more


Dot Wordsworth: Is M&S really 'Magic & Sparkle'?

16 November 2013

‘Believe in Magic & Sparkle,’ says the Marks & Spencer television Christmas advertisement. The phrase is meant to suggest the shop, but it seems rather distant to me, either verbally… Read more


9 November 2013

I saw an advertisement for Active Gold Collagen, and I realised I didn’t know what collagen means. My husband just laughed and said, ‘Horse hides,’ but this seemed unfair since… Read more

The week in words: 'Pull & Bear' is all style, no substance

2 November 2013

‘This’ll make you laugh,’ said my husband, sounding like George V commenting on an Impressionist painting. ‘Someone in the Telegraph says that the French shouldn’t borrow English words.’ Once I… Read more


The bare-brained youth of south London

26 October 2013

‘Bare? Extra? What does it all mean?’ asked my husband, sounding like George Smiley in the middle of a particularly puzzling tangle of disinformation. My husband had just been reading… Read more

Word of the Week: Does it matter who uses the N-word?

19 October 2013

The BBC is to broadcast what is now referred to as the ‘C-word’ in a drama about Dylan Thomas. ‘It was in an actual letter by Dylan Thomas,’ the screenwriter… Read more