Dot Wordsworth

Why disgraced MPs head for the Chiltern Hundreds

14 May 2022 9:00 am

I saw in last week’s Spectatorthat the tractor MP had applied for the stewardship of the Manor of Northstead. After…

Are we living in a new pornocracy?

7 May 2022 9:00 am

Are we living in a new pornocracy? The first one spanned six decades of the 10th century, during which there…

The wonder of the Metaphor Map

30 April 2022 9:00 am

‘What’s that?’ asked my husband, looking at my laptop. ‘Fibonacci fossilised?’ His question made no sense, but I saw what…

The linguistic ingredients of ‘salmagundi’

23 April 2022 9:00 am

‘It makes me hungry,’ said my husband when I mentioned the word salmagundi. That is his reaction to many words.…

The Aesopian language of algospeak

16 April 2022 9:00 am

To evade algorithms that hunt down forbidden words, users of platforms like TikTok employ cryptic synonyms. So deadbecomes unalive, and…

What’s the right way to pronounce ‘gif’?

9 April 2022 9:00 am

The man who invented gifs, Stephen Wilhite, has died, aged 74. Controversy survives him – over how to pronounce the…

When did brothers and sisters become ‘siblings’?

2 April 2022 9:00 am

I never cared much for the word sibling, though I hardly knew why. The reason must be that it was…

How do you pronounce ‘Cirencester’ and ‘Marylebone’?

26 March 2022 9:00 am

‘Half! Half! Half!’ exclaimed my husband like a performing sea lion. Not that sea lions perform any more, but you…

The ancient origins of ‘doomscrolling’

19 March 2022 9:00 am

In 2019, Boris Johnson hit out at ‘the doomsters and the gloomsters’. I was surprised then to find that the…

Why does everything ‘embolden’ Putin?

12 March 2022 9:00 am

The most emboldened man on earth must be Vladimir Putin. Everything seems to embolden him. Treating Russia as a pariah…

The complicated business of swearing in Ukrainian

5 March 2022 9:00 am

‘This will interest you,’ said my husband, looking up from the smeared screen of his telephone. For once he was…

How 'like' lost its way

26 February 2022 9:00 am

A strange crisis has befallen like. It had long been an object of obloquy and vilification in two functions. The…

Where’s the ‘mystery’ in mystery plays?

19 February 2022 9:00 am

In The Archers, Ambridge put on its own set of mystery plays dramatising the Nativity and Passion. BBC Radio 4…

When did ‘pikey’ become offensive?

12 February 2022 9:00 am

A policeman sent a colleague who was house-sitting for him a WhatsApp message: ‘Keep the pikeys out.’ He was sacked…

What does ice cream have to do with ‘late capitalism’?

5 February 2022 9:00 am

‘More to my taste is Trockenbeerenkapitalismus,’ said my husband with an intonation that indicated a joke. The joke was a…

What’s so funny about ‘helpmeet’?

29 January 2022 9:00 am

‘What’s so funny?’ asked my husband, accusingly, as I made an amused noise while relaxing with a copy of the…

Is the Duke of York’s title really ‘untenable’?

22 January 2022 9:00 am

‘Nurse! The tenaculum!’ exclaimed my husband in the manner of James Robertson Justice playing the surgeon Sir Lancelot Spratt. I’m…

The elementary misuse of ‘alumni’

15 January 2022 9:00 am

My husband is forever being sent magazines from his Oxford college inviting him to give it money. I suggest he…

Backlash

8 January 2022 9:00 am

‘Lashings of ginger beer?’ asked my husband when I mentioned backlash. He thought the phrase came from Enid Blyton, though…

2021's word of the year: 'cis'

18 December 2021 9:00 am

Cis

What do Millwall supporters and internet alt-righters have in common?

11 December 2021 9:00 am

My grown-up friends don’t use based in its new slangy sense, so I asked Veronica (whom I still think of…

The six ways to pronounce ‘Omicron’

4 December 2021 9:00 am

‘There once was a curate of Kew, / Who kept a young cat in a pew,’ began my husband when…

Should we ramp down ramping down?

27 November 2021 9:00 am

Language change outdoes nonsense, just as misbehaviour outdoes satire. In Through the Looking-Glass Alice mentions to the Gnat that, where…

How are you meant to pronounce Uranus?

20 November 2021 9:00 am

I had thought there were two pronunciations of Uranus. My husband, still capable of distinguishing the anatomical from the planetary,…

Has Boris Johnson really ‘trashed’ parliament’s reputation?

13 November 2021 9:00 am

‘When they posted the closing-night notice for his first Broadway play, Comes a Day, he went into a drunken rage,…