Language

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…

029_edu_sept_2016

Language learning: we’re more tongue-tied than ever

10 September 2016 9:00 am

When most of the world knows English, does it matter that foreign language teaching is dying out in our schools? Rhiannon Williams takes a look

Tom Wolfe at 85: still working the suit and hat look

Aged 85, Tom Wolfe discovers the key to human progress

27 August 2016 9:00 am

He might be 85 but Tom Wolfe is going strong with a new book and a dustjacket photo that still…

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…

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,…

Tuscany farmhouse,morning, frost, winter, mist,Italy.

Addlands: where the new nature writing meets the novel

18 June 2016 9:00 am

There have been a number of attempts to graft the style of the so-called new nature writing onto the novel:…

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…

darkside

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…

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…

(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…

Britain to have ‘special status’ in the EU? Careful what you wish for…

27 February 2016 9:00 am

‘Special status?’ said my husband. ‘You mean like executioners, butchers and undertakers in Japan?’ I hadn’t suggested that, but had…

Does creaky voice make you a female yuppie – or an updated Vicki Pollard?

20 February 2016 9:00 am

My husband, not surprisingly, finds it extremely annoying. It, in this instance, is the use by women of creaky voice.…

Beware of misusing ‘be aware’

13 February 2016 9:00 am

My husband pointed with his stick, which he carries not to steady himself but to cudgel pedestrians out of his…

2014 LACMA Art + Film Gala Honoring Barbara Kruger And Quentin Tarantino Presented By Gucci - Red Carpet

How ‘Not even a thing’ became a thing

6 February 2016 9:00 am

Last summer Kim Kardashian, who already had a daughter called North (surname West), announced that she was expecting a boy.…

Are we at peak ‘peak’ yet?

30 January 2016 9:00 am

Near Victoria Station in London they began to build a tower-block advertised as ‘The Peak’. I expected it to resemble…

The words The Spectator gave the world

9 January 2016 9:00 am

When the much missed Frank Johnson (1943–2006), once editor of The Spectator, wrote in 1980 that ‘the peculiar need for…