Mind your language

Where does Donald Trump’s new favourite word come from?

20 January 2018 9:00 am

In Polite Conversation, Jonathan Swift presents dialogues made up of clichés, banalities and catchphrases. When Miss Notable makes a remark…

Why do so many academics write so badly?

13 January 2018 9:00 am

Why do so many academics write so badly? Those who make the study of language their life’s work are as…

The phrase that is almost universally misused

6 January 2018 9:00 am

Writing about Meghan Markle and the Duchess of Cambridge in the Sunday Times, India Knight wrote: ‘I can’t help but…

After many centuries, the triumph of ‘hi’ is complete

16 December 2017 9:00 am

A book that changed my way of looking at the world was The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren. It showed…

Syndromes: they have made their escape from the medical world

9 December 2017 9:00 am

‘You must have Tired Old Woman Syndrome,’ said my husband as I fell back into an armchair with a sigh…

Can the beer-bike take on the Boris-bike?

2 December 2017 9:00 am

In Amsterdam the courts have given leave to ban the bierfiets. Fiets is the Dutch for ‘bike’. (The plural is fietsen.)…

When Kingsley Amis needed a new insult, he reached for the taboo

25 November 2017 9:00 am

‘It’s up there on the shelf you can’t reach,’ said my husband in an unhelpfully helpful tone. The ‘it’ was…

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…