Mind your language

What two little words that combine virtue signalling and denunciation?

18 November 2017 9:00 am

The inventor of the verse form known as the clerihew, Edmund Clerihew Bentley, had a way with this seemingly simple…

Is your conduct unacceptably inappropriate – or inappropriately unacceptable?

11 November 2017 9:00 am

‘When is physical contact “unacceptable”?’ asked Charles Moore in the Daily Telegraph. He may well ask. Sir Michael Fallon said…

Medicine

4 November 2017 9:00 am

John Farquhar of Salisbury writes to say he is irritated. He is not just irritated, he has long been long…

The trouble with the definite article

28 October 2017 9:00 am

Veronica, who looks at Twitter, told me of an exchange she thought would interest me, about the use of the.…

Apart from any other sins, Harvey Weinstein can’t even pronounce his own name

21 October 2017 9:00 am

Before I forget, I was cheered by the letter from Keith Aitken in last week’s issue noting another sense for…

Did Buffy the Vampire Slayer invent this irritating phrase?

14 October 2017 9:00 am

‘Kiss me mucho,’ sang my husband with a revolting leer, ‘and we’ll soar. And we’ll dance the dance of love…

Mind your language: the many meanings of tube

7 October 2017 9:00 am

When George Eliot wrote ‘The tube-journey can never lend much to picture and narrative,’ she was not making an observant…

Mind your language: Boo

30 September 2017 9:00 am

In 1872, the 27-stone figure of the Tichborne Claimant was insisting he was Sir Roger Tichborne Bt, an heir thought…

Vot a shocking bad hat! The 19th-century teenage insult de nos jours

23 September 2017 9:00 am

My husband complains that the disposition of teenagers in London is one of mocking hostility. I seem to suffer less…

Dustman or refuse collector? And what about his trousers?

16 September 2017 9:00 am

Piles of black plastic rubbish sacks lie in the streets of Birmingham because, since the end of June, the dustmen…

Mind Your Language on.... go ballistic

9 September 2017 9:00 am

I had always thought that to go ballistic was the same as to go nuclear, metaphorically. But the ballistic figure…

Mind your language: Bacteria

2 September 2017 9:00 am

It’s like whipping cream. All of a sudden it goes stiff and you can turn the bowl upside down without…

Sixteen-hundreds

26 August 2017 9:00 am

I was puzzled by the caption to a picture in the Times Literary Supplement. The picture showed a model of…

Mind Your Language: Mechanistic insight

19 August 2017 9:00 am

No, hang on, don’t turn to Dear Mary yet. This is not as dull as it sounds. It’s just that…

No book title is so widely mispronounced as Wuthering Heights

12 August 2017 9:00 am

Haworth is in a constant simmer of Brontë anniversary fever. It is looking forward to Emily Brontë’s 200th birthday next…

Mind Your Language: Greenland and India

5 August 2017 9:00 am

‘Remember what the fellow said — it’s not a bally bit of use every prospect pleasing if man is vile,’…

Leave epiphanies to the poets and mystics

29 July 2017 9:00 am

‘I love the pumping station,’ said my husband, waving a copy of the Docklands and East London Advertiser which reported…

How can ‘support’ be twisted into so many meanings? It’s unsupportable

22 July 2017 9:00 am

The Foreword didn’t bode well. This was on the first page of The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices. It…

A pride of lions, a muster of peacocks: where did these words come from?

15 July 2017 9:00 am

‘Are they all gay too?’ asked my husband, waving the Sunday Telegraph with its headline ‘Pride of Lions’. He had…

At the end of day, when is a cliché not a cliché?

8 July 2017 9:00 am

The most tired cliché in English, suggests ​​Orin Hargraves, the American philologist, is at the end of the day. I’ve…

Mind Your Language: Romance liver

1 July 2017 9:00 am

‘Ha, ha!’ said my husband, waving the Spectator letters page in the air. ‘Ha, ha, ha!’ He was overcome by…

Mind your language: Narrative

24 June 2017 9:00 am

Laura Kuenssberg was right. Even my husband agreed, and he often throws soiled beermats from an unknown source (which he…

Mind your language: Trooping the colour

17 June 2017 9:00 am

Language is a weapon to do down others. ‘He calls the knaves, Jacks, this boy!’ said Estella disdainfully of Pip…

Mind your language: Not bloody likely

10 June 2017 9:00 am

In My Fair Lady, which came out as a film in 1964, 50 years after Shaw’s Pygmalion, they decided to…

How the pretentious ‘reference’ elbowed aside ‘refer to’ or just ‘mention’

3 June 2017 9:00 am

When Dickens wanted to buy a house in 1837, he wrote to Richard Bentley, who had started the magazine in…