Mind your language

The week in words: When politicians use 'hard-working'

12 October 2013 9:00 am

In his New Year message for 1940, Joseph Goebbels complained that the ‘warmongering cliques in London’ hated the German people…

Dot Wordsworth's week in words: Did William Empson have the first clue what 'bare ruined choirs' meant?

5 October 2013 9:00 am

I am shocked to find that William Empson, famous for his technique of close reading, was no good at reading…

Word of the Week: If your jacket isn't blazing, don't call it a 'blazer'

28 September 2013 9:00 am

‘It’s not right, is it?’ said Veronica, pointing to a poster for H&M women’s blazers at £17.I agreed. But she…

Capital letters

21 September 2013 9:00 am

One man’s grammatical nicety is another man’s grotesque solecism, I thought, as I perused a report in the Gulf News,…

Mind your language: the dark side of squee

14 September 2013 9:00 am

Oxford Dictionaries have been adding some rather silly words to their online resources, such as phablet (‘a smartphone with a…

Dot Wordsworth: We've been self-whipping since 1672

7 September 2013 9:00 am

Isabel Hardman of this parish explained after last week’s government defeat that a deluded theory among the party leadership had…

Vikings

31 August 2013 9:00 am

‘What’s he saying now?’ asked my husband in a provoking manner when an actor read out a bit of the…

After ‘literally’, is it time to start a Neighbourhood Watch for the OED?

24 August 2013 9:00 am

There was outrage last week when it was found that the Oxford English Dictionary had listed one sense of literally…

Bongo

17 August 2013 9:00 am

Alexandra Shulman was on Desert Island Discs this summer and one choice was ‘Bongo Bong’. Its words tell a simple…

Mind your language: Frack vs frag

10 August 2013 9:00 am

‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a frack,’ replied my husband unwittily when I asked how he’d feel if shale…

Mind your language: The springs before the Arab Spring

3 August 2013 9:00 am

Two hundred and forty-years ago next Tuesday, Thomas Gray was buried in his mother’s grave in Stoke Poges churchyard. In…

Mind your language: Who says there's a 'correct name' for the penis?

27 July 2013 9:00 am

In a very rum letter to the Daily Telegraph, the Mother’s Union of all people joined with some other bodies…

Mind your language: How the Dreamliner got its name

20 July 2013 9:00 am

‘Planes don’t run off batteries,’ declared my husband, his finger unerringly on the pulse of technology as ever. I had…

Transparency

13 July 2013 9:00 am

On 21 June 1785, James Woodforde was in Norwich and in the evening went to Bunns pleasure gardens, where ‘there…

Swathe

6 July 2013 9:00 am

Swathe is a popular word at the moment, and ignorance of its meaning, spelling and pronunciation deters no one. It…

Women

29 June 2013 9:00 am

Unaccountably, people have begun to pronounce women ‘women’, if you see what I mean. For centuries we’ve been pronouncing it…

Mind your language: Hobson’s choice

22 June 2013 9:00 am

An Iranian on the wireless was complaining that disqualification of presidential candidates had left voters with ‘Hobson’s choice’. No doubt…

Commas

15 June 2013 9:00 am

‘Scatter ye rosebuds while ye may,’ sang my husband, reckless of words and tune, thereby offending the ghosts of Herrick,…

What, exactly, is a 'red line'?

8 June 2013 9:00 am

Last August President Barack Obama said that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would cross a red line. He…

In terms of

1 June 2013 9:00 am

‘One good term deserves another,’ said my husband in his infuriating way of almost making a joke. As he was…

Mind Your Language: Loon

25 May 2013 9:00 am

Was the Ancient Mariner a Conservative party member? Coleridge tells us several times that he had a ‘glittering eye’, an…

Grocery

18 May 2013 9:00 am

Was Margaret Thatcher brought up in a grocery? I wouldn’t say so. The Americans would. I’d call her father’s shop…

Game-changing

11 May 2013 9:00 am

In the days when we had bottles of milk delivered, some tits discovered how to peck through the foil tops…

Just got easier

4 May 2013 9:00 am

‘A cab?’ said my husband. ‘Was the Underground out of order?’ I had been telling him about an interesting notice…

Lady

27 April 2013 9:00 am

In the sobriquet Iron Lady, isn’t lady too deferential for a mocking nickname? Its author, Yuri Gavrilov, hardly knew that…