Is This Morning really ‘toxic’?

‘I know the antidote to toxicity,’ my husband shouted, waving a copy of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History, even though there was nobody to shout down. Toxicity has become a fashionable word, particularly since the resignation of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister. Toxic is to poisonous what erotic is to sexual: an elevated term. Over the past fortnight it has been deployed in that storm in a television set: the fall of Phillip Schofield. Someone called Dr Ranj Singh declared that the culture at This Morning – the ITV programme that is generally on when one is waiting at an airport – had ‘become toxic’. Schofield, a presenter of the

What does ‘macabre’ have to do with the Bible?

When The Spectator took the pulse of Paris in 1897, it reported: ‘Macabre pictures, Macabre poems, and Macabre music are all the fashion. We hear of cafés where the tables are shaped like coffins.’ Macabre was a new word in English, and this was its sole 1890s Spectator appearance. Its connections are indicated by a phrase in a song by that uneven chansonnier Georges Brassens: croque-macchabée. It means ‘undertaker’, macchabée being ‘a corpse’. The French slang macchabée and the English macabre both originate in the Danse Macabre. There was a 14th-century French book called La Danse Macabré, with an accent, and Macabré seems to be an alteration of the Old

John Stott: the centenary of a true radical

Much has been made of the Queen’s Christian faith in the aftermath of the death of her husband the Duke of Edinburgh. For decades, John Stott, who served as the Queen’s chaplain, shepherded Her Majesty in that faith. Yet although his preaching brought him into contact with Royalty, led to him selling millions of books and even earned him a place among Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world, Stott – born a century ago this week – remained a humble man. Stott lived in spartan simplicity in a two-room flat above a garage. Author of more than 50 internationally best-selling books, he assigned all his royalties to a

This comedy duo should be on Netflix: General Secretary reviewed

General Secretary is a new drama with a dull title and an off-putting poster. A pair of angry women in sombre clothing glare into the middle distance. But the satirical premise is intriguing. What if two young females with no experience took over the world? Georgie and Cassie are working from home when they receive a mysterious message from the United Nations. A pushy German blonde appears on their screens and makes an announcement: ‘You vill now be presiding over ze vorld.’ That’s it. And so they take control from their kitchen. The first surprise is that the newly empowered sisters don’t set about exposing the faults of male-dominated governments.