English usage

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…

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…

Thanks to Trump, the exclamation mark is having its best year! Ever!

13 October 2018 9:00 am

The exclamation mark is the bad boy of punctuation

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…

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…

Unconscious bias: is Starbucks like the old Met Police?

9 June 2018 9:00 am

Starbucks closed its 8,000 American coffee shops for half a day to give staff unconscious bias training. Training is to…

How did the same word come to describe the activities of stable lads and sexual predators?

3 February 2018 9:00 am

Grooming is a horrible phenomenon of modern life when it happens to abused children. Yet a magazine such as GQ…

The phrase that is almost universally misused

6 January 2018 9:00 am

Writing about Meghan Markle and the Duchess of Cambridge in the Sunday Times, India Knight wrote: ‘I can’t help but…

Does Brexit mean anything anymore?

9 December 2017 9:00 am

Brexit and the English language

Can the beer-bike take on the Boris-bike?

2 December 2017 9:00 am

In Amsterdam the courts have given leave to ban the bierfiets. Fiets is the Dutch for ‘bike’. (The plural is fietsen.)…

When Kingsley Amis needed a new insult, he reached for the taboo

25 November 2017 9:00 am

‘It’s up there on the shelf you can’t reach,’ said my husband in an unhelpfully helpful tone. The ‘it’ was…

What two little words that combine virtue signalling and denunciation?

18 November 2017 9:00 am

The inventor of the verse form known as the clerihew, Edmund Clerihew Bentley, had a way with this seemingly simple…

Did Buffy the Vampire Slayer invent this irritating phrase?

14 October 2017 9:00 am

‘Kiss me mucho,’ sang my husband with a revolting leer, ‘and we’ll soar. And we’ll dance the dance of love…

Mind Your Language on.... go ballistic

9 September 2017 9:00 am

I had always thought that to go ballistic was the same as to go nuclear, metaphorically. But the ballistic figure…

Mind Your Language: Mechanistic insight

19 August 2017 9:00 am

No, hang on, don’t turn to Dear Mary yet. This is not as dull as it sounds. It’s just that…

How can ‘support’ be twisted into so many meanings? It’s unsupportable

22 July 2017 9:00 am

The Foreword didn’t bode well. This was on the first page of The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices. It…

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: 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…

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…

My word of the year is... ‘Yeah’

10 December 2016 9:00 am

My husband has an irritating habit of holding his hymn book open at the right page but obviously not referring…

Include me out of this grammatical atrocity

4 June 2016 9:00 am

Just as, in writing, many people use an exclamation mark to indicate that they have made a joke, so there…

Mind your language . . . on commit

5 December 2015 9:00 am

My husband struck out with his stick at an advertisement in the street that said: ‘Commit to winter.’ He doesn’t…