Mind your language

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…

Mind your language: Goof

27 May 2017 9:00 am

Susie Dent has been trying to make us love Americanisms on Radio 4. Now Miss Dent knows far more about…

Saying ‘one-year anniversary’ is as redundant as saying ‘pin number’

20 May 2017 9:00 am

‘It’s like Pin number,’ said my husband, drifting into lucidity. So it is, in a way. The construction under discussion…

Mind your language: Progressive

13 May 2017 9:00 am

I laughed, in a sympathetic way I hope, when I read a letter in the Daily Telegraph pointing out that…

Once ‘compliance’ was a vice — now it’s all about ticking boxes

6 May 2017 9:00 am

Ralph Bathurst was accused shortly after his death in 1704 of being ‘suspected of Hypocrisy and of mean Complyance’. I…

When did Jane first become plain? And how did Guinevere turn into Jenny?

29 April 2017 9:00 am

‘What are you laughing at?’ asked my husband in an accusing tone on Monday morning last week as he unloaded…

How the Post Office failed to deliver on envelopes

22 April 2017 9:00 am

One can push many things — a pen, one’s luck or (up) daisies. But the MP Dominic Raab told the…

Mind your language: King Charles’s head

15 April 2017 8:00 am

‘It has become something of a King Charles’ head, or should that be a King Charles’s head?’ said my husband,…

Mind your language: An historic

8 April 2017 9:00 am

Everybody’s saying it, even though the latest research declares that only 6 per cent of the population is given to…

Why can’t St Thomas’s Hospital spell its own name?

1 April 2017 9:00 am

Everyone praised the staff of St Thomas’s Hospital during the terrorist attack. My husband of course brought his own fly to…

Of course ‘girl’ can mean ‘woman’. It has done for centuries

25 March 2017 9:00 am

Sir Roger Gale sounds like an old-bufferish knight of the shires, but he once worked as a disc-jockey on a…

How I learned to live with ‘meet with’

18 March 2017 9:00 am

Don’t tell my husband, but I have been having doubts. (He never reads this column, so our secret is safe.)…

The difference between a yarmulke and a kippah

11 March 2017 9:00 am

What, asks the columnist Philologus in the online magazine Mosaic, is the difference between a kippah and a yarmulke? I’m…

The American way with ‘pick’ is over here to stay

4 March 2017 9:00 am

I have long pondered the motive with which Michael Wharton, for long the author of the Daily Telegraph’s Peter Simple…

The most unlikely origin I’ve ever seen for a common phrase

25 February 2017 9:00 am

The number of things I don’t know is infinite — or infinite minus one, if such as number exists, since…

Rocket the salad leaf has more to do with hedgehogs than fireworks

18 February 2017 9:00 am

‘It is rocket science,’ said my husband waving a pinnately lobed leaf snatched from his restaurant salad. He doesn’t much…

Why it’s time to abandon ‘trope’

11 February 2017 9:00 am

A law I’d like to see passed would exact severe penalties for the use of the word trope. It is…

Italians’ creative way with their trendy English words

4 February 2017 9:00 am

Waiting for my husband in a Rome hotel, I was reduced to reading some of the weekend newspaper supplements. The…

Sorry, President Trump, but ‘carnage’ means there has to be blood

28 January 2017 9:00 am

‘This carnage stops here,’ declared the headline in the Daily Telegraph, quoting President Donald Trump’s inauguration speech. My husband tried…