Mind your language

What’s good for the goose is bad for the proverb

18 October 2014 9:00 am

‘Goosey, goosey gander,’ my husband shouted at the television, like someone from Gogglebox. It’s not so much that he thinks…

The fascinating history of dullness

11 October 2014 9:00 am

At least I’ve got my husband’s Christmas present sorted out: the Dull Men of Great Britain calendar. It is no…

How did Mark Reckless get his surname?

4 October 2014 9:00 am

When I first heard ‘Wonderwall’ being played in a public house, in 1995 I suppose, I thought it was some…

Dot Wordsworth on language: Why do we call it ‘Islamic State’?

27 September 2014 8:00 am

I’m puzzled by the dropping of the one part of the name of the Islamic State that seems certain. That…

The rhetorical power of ‘never’, from Ian Paisley to King Lear

20 September 2014 9:00 am

He won’t be remembered as Lord Bannside, but Ian Paisley will be remembered for shouting: ‘Never, never, never, never.’ The…

Knee-jerkers vs knee-tremblers

13 September 2014 9:00 am

A little joke by Paddy, Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, turned upon something to be shunned. Conservative ministers, he said, had…

‘Escalate’: an exciting new way to say ‘pass the buck’

6 September 2014 9:00 am

Shaun Wright, the police and crime commissioner for South Yorkshire, spoke to Sky television last week about how little he…

A bitter struggle with the dictionary

30 August 2014 9:00 am

‘Don’t mind if I do,’ is one of husband’s stock phrases — jokes he would think them — in this…

What’s humanitarian about a humanitarian crisis?

23 August 2014 9:00 am

‘Our first priority,’ David Cameron said this week, ‘has of course been to deal with the acute humanitarian crisis in…

Is Boris Johnson standing for Parliament — or running for it?

16 August 2014 9:00 am

‘Boris Johnson broke cover yesterday to declare that he will run for parliament,’ the Times reported last week. The Mirror…

Should you be prejudiced against ‘pre-’?

9 August 2014 9:00 am

‘Pre-diabetes is an artificial category with virtually zero clinical relevance,’ said an American professor in the Times. A friend of…

The mystery of the missing Mrs

2 August 2014 9:00 am

I don’t much care for being called Wordsworth. Oh, the name is rather distinguished, though it came from my husband,…

Does 'autonomy' mean anything any more?

26 July 2014 9:00 am

My husband is constantly amused by talk of patient autonomy — for people who want to have a limb lopped…

Origins of the toe-rag

19 July 2014 9:00 am

‘I am glad to say that I have never seen a toe-rag,’ said my husband, assuming, as unconvincingly as one…

Just how old-fashioned is Labour's 'cost of living' campaign?

12 July 2014 9:00 am

Labour’s appeal to the cost of living has a rather old-fashioned feel to it: as if the whole nation still…

Diffuse, defuse and the damnably confused

5 July 2014 9:00 am

It’s funny how people hardly know what they are saying. I read recently of diplomats going to Riyadh ‘to diffuse…

The bloody battle for the name Isis

28 June 2014 9:00 am

‘This’ll make you laugh,’ said my husband, looking up from the Daily Telegraph. For once he was right. It was…

Terrorists still can't 'execute' anyone

21 June 2014 9:00 am

During the sudden advances of ISIS in Iraq, one visual image stood for their brutality. As the Daily Mail reported…

Why would a Danish queen say 'basta'?

14 June 2014 8:00 am

My husband heard me in the kitchen exclaim: ‘What would I do without you?’ He curiously imagined I was referring…

Square meals didn't start in Nelson's navy – but you could get one in a gold-rush town

7 June 2014 9:00 am

I never dare go with my husband to any restaurant that uses square plates or he will play up the…

The sinister new meaning of ‘support’

31 May 2014 9:00 am

When I asked my husband why paramedical professions were given to remaking the language in strange ways, he replied in…

‘Basta’ must be the Queen’s English — a Queen used it

24 May 2014 9:00 am

My chickens do not usually come home to roost so rapidly. Only a fortnight ago I wrote that ‘some people use…

How DO you pronounce 'Marylebone'? 

17 May 2014 9:00 am

‘Take a trip to Marylebone station,’ chanted my husband. ‘Do not pass Go. Do not collect £200.’ I had been…

What the French now mean when they say ‘bugger’

10 May 2014 9:00 am

The French for tête-à-tête is one-to-one now, according to a new survey of English invaders by Alexandre des Isnards. Actually,…

Why –y? The evolution of a suffix

3 May 2014 9:00 am

Hitler was ‘dark, shouty, moustachioed’ in Churchill’s eyes, or rather, that was Jonathan Rose’s view of how Churchill saw Hitler,…