Mary Killen Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 27 August 2011

Your problems solved

Q. I was interested to see Charles Moore’s italicisation of the word ‘patio’ in the issue of 30 July. We have a paved area in our garden at home, but my wife and I are unsure of what it should be called. What would you suggest? —S.B., Somerset

A. Charles Moore was writing about the Alhambra, where the courtyards are called patios, but the truth is that outside of such venerable buildings and Latin countries there is no acceptable expression for the type of paved area you mention. So unless it could be classed as a terrace, you only have the option of pronouncing patio in a silly voice, which would be tiring, or just referring to it as ‘outside’ e.g. ‘let’s sit outside’ or ‘I left my book outside’.

Q. I am at the age where parts of the body start to go wrong, and have a minor but life-changing issue. I was in the process of telling my friends when I learnt that one of them has a much more serious and life-threatening one. Should I mention my own lesser problem to him, and if so, how? I don’t want to belittle his by seeming to ‘compare notes’ but I suspect he would wish to know.
—J.N., New Malden, Surrey

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A. You should deliver your own news in a matter-of-fact way and continue to discuss both illnesses in the same manner.

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