Mind your language

The real reason people say ‘I text him’ instead of ‘I texted’ him

8 December 2018 9:00 am

Martin Allen has written with a very interesting question. It follows on from his initial query, which is why people…

Word of the week: ‘Granular’, a word used to suggest in-depth analysis

1 December 2018 9:00 am

‘Just two sugars,’ said my husband as I passed him his tea. He is cutting down. I doubt he would…

Word of the week: ‘cakeism’

24 November 2018 9:00 am

Latest despatches from the Dictionary Wars bring news of Oxford’s words of the year, a counterblast to last week’s words…

Collins dictionary has got ‘gammon’ all wrong

17 November 2018 9:00 am

In the annual dictionary wars to nominate words of the year, in the hope of attracting publicity, Collins has made…

At sixes and sevens about seven and six

10 November 2018 9:00 am

Someone on the wireless was talking about marrying in the Liberty of Newgate before the Marriage Act of 1753, and…

Getting on – and falling off – the wagon

3 November 2018 9:00 am

Radio 3 tries to distract listeners from music by posing little quizzes and hearing quirky details of history from a…

The polite origins of the police

27 October 2018 9:00 am

My husband, who fancies himself as something of a classicist, was delighted to see the Turkish investigators of the Khashoggi…

Mind your language: Woman, women, womxn

20 October 2018 9:00 am

When I say that it has given comfort to my husband, you can judge how foolish the Wellcome Institute was…

To avoid knowing the distasteful origin of ‘scumbag’, look away now

13 October 2018 9:00 am

President Vladimir Putin of Russia remarked of Sergei Skripal, whom his agents tried to kill, ‘He’s simply a scumbag.’ Scumbag…

Was everyone a psychopath before 1909?

6 October 2018 9:00 am

My husband is enjoying Do No Harm, the arresting memoir of the brain surgeon Henry Marsh who was on Desert…

Why ‘embolden’ is a word in a million — and it’s currently in vogue

29 September 2018 9:00 am

Embolden is a word in a million. In other words it is quite common. Using data from Google Books, the…

Why ‘whiter than white’ shouldn’t get you suspended

22 September 2018 9:00 am

A detective superintendent has been placed on ‘restricted duties’ while the Independent Office for Police Conduct investigates a complaint that…

The origin and nature of teacakes

15 September 2018 9:00 am

The Sunday Telegraph has been running a correspondence on the origin and nature of teacakes. One reader averred that in…

Optics: stingy pub measures and politicians’ images

8 September 2018 9:00 am

If you’d like to buy a copy of Newton’s Opticks: or, A Treatise of the Reflexions, Refractions, Inflexions and Colours…

1880s slang: How to fig a nag and pitch a snide

1 September 2018 9:00 am

‘I want my money back,’ said my husband. ‘This is from the 1880s, not the 1980s.’ He looked up from…

Why would you relish an opportunity?

25 August 2018 9:00 am

The Sun gave a sad picture of British loneliness recently in a report about the national yearning to play a…

Petrichor: an awkward word for a pleasant phenomenon

18 August 2018 9:00 am

I’m not too sure about the word petrichor, invented in 1964 as a label for the pleasant smell frequently accompanying…

‘Crest’ and the absurd language of heraldry

11 August 2018 9:00 am

A friend of my husband’s, yet a well-educated man, said in conversation as we walked to Tate Modern: ‘Is that…

Signage

4 August 2018 9:00 am

My husband, in company with a similarly superannuated medic on the unfamiliar London Underground, was bidden at Baker Street to…

Mind your language: County lines

28 July 2018 9:00 am

We are suddenly all expected to know that county lines are to do with the selling of illegal drugs in…

‘Living with’ is now a thing – usually followed by something nasty like Alzheimer’s

21 July 2018 9:00 am

I’m not at all sure about the formula a person living with, followed by something unwelcome, such as Alzheimer’s disease,…

Has Boris brought ‘turd’ back into polite society?

14 July 2018 9:00 am

I have never lost my admiration for Boris Johnson’s summary of British ambitions over Brexit as ‘having our cake and…

Ideation, from suicide to management speak

7 July 2018 9:00 am

‘Suicide!’ yelled my husband, while performing an inappropriate mime of a hangman’s noose. That was his reply when I asked…

The origins of the famous blue tiles of Portugal’s buildings have been misunderstood

30 June 2018 9:00 am

A friend sent a nice postcard from Portugal showing the outside of a church covered with old blue tiles. She…

‘Iteration’ has escaped from the computer shops

23 June 2018 9:00 am

‘They should say, irritation, not iteration,’ exclaimed my husband as a voice on the wireless spoke about men’s fashion and…