Language

Word of the week: ‘Granular’, a word used to suggest in-depth analysis

1 December 2018 9:00 am

‘Just two sugars,’ said my husband as I passed him his tea. He is cutting down. I doubt he would…

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…

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 ‘whiter than white’ shouldn’t get you suspended

22 September 2018 9:00 am

A detective superintendent has been placed on ‘restricted duties’ while the Independent Office for Police Conduct investigates a complaint that…

The origin and nature of teacakes

15 September 2018 9:00 am

The Sunday Telegraph has been running a correspondence on the origin and nature of teacakes. One reader averred that in…

Why would you relish an opportunity?

25 August 2018 9:00 am

The Sun gave a sad picture of British loneliness recently in a report about the national yearning to play a…

Has Boris brought ‘turd’ back into polite society?

14 July 2018 9:00 am

I have never lost my admiration for Boris Johnson’s summary of British ambitions over Brexit as ‘having our cake and…

‘Iteration’ has escaped from the computer shops

23 June 2018 9:00 am

‘They should say, irritation, not iteration,’ exclaimed my husband as a voice on the wireless spoke about men’s fashion and…

When ‘activist’ used to mean ‘Nazi supporter’

16 June 2018 9:00 am

Rudolf Eucken had a beard and a way of tucking the ends of his bow tie under his collar that…

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…

Is Donald Trump really bonkers?

19 May 2018 9:00 am

John Kelly, the White House Chief of Staff, has a way with words. During the invasion of Iraq in 2003…

We’ve been saying ‘wrap up warm’ for a thousand years

10 March 2018 9:00 am

In June 1873, Oswald Cockayne shot himself. He was in a state of melancholy, having been dismissed by King’s College…

Why do so many academics write so badly?

13 January 2018 9:00 am

Why do so many academics write so badly? Those who make the study of language their life’s work are as…

Triggered by Bregret? Your guide to the new word order

2 December 2017 9:00 am

Get out of your bubble and into your safe space, you hashtag activist. Andy Shaw mansplains the latest lexicon

Mind your language: Boo

30 September 2017 9:00 am

In 1872, the 27-stone figure of the Tichborne Claimant was insisting he was Sir Roger Tichborne Bt, an heir thought…

Mind your language: Bacteria

2 September 2017 9:00 am

It’s like whipping cream. All of a sudden it goes stiff and you can turn the bowl upside down without…

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…

Leave epiphanies to the poets and mystics

29 July 2017 9:00 am

‘I love the pumping station,’ said my husband, waving a copy of the Docklands and East London Advertiser which reported…

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…

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…

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…

Do Daniel C. Dennett's memes deserve to survive?

4 March 2017 9:00 am

The greatest of Bach’s 224 cantatas is BWV 109, ‘Ich glaube, lieber Herr, hilf meinem Unglauben’. Its subject — the…

What Donald Trump doesn't get about rhetoric

28 January 2017 9:00 am

In his inaugural speech last week, the new President Trump said, among much else, the ‘American carnage’ of poverty, ignorance…

A misspelt star of the FTSE 100

21 January 2017 9:00 am

‘Look, darling, a spelling mistake,’ said my husband, looking out of the window, as he had been for minutes, like…

The secret society that made ‘nativist’ an insult

14 January 2017 9:00 am

The title of America’s first woman bishop was claimed in 1918 by Bishop Alma White, leader of the Pillar of…