Category Archives: Words, phrases & expressions

Widows & widowers – and a Guardian typo

Anna Pavlovna as widow by J.B. van der Hulst / Wikimedia Commons

Here’s the last exchange of letters (unpublished) between my late father and The Guardian:

To the Guardian Letters Editor from Sir Brian Barder

I submit the following letter for publication.

I’m intrigued by your description of Brendan Cox as the late MP Jo Cox’s “widow” (caption, National, p15, 23 June). Has “widower” been banned from the Guardian’s pages as offensively gender-specific, and “widow” promoted to gender-neutral status, like “actor”? Or is it a typo?

Brian Barder
London
24 June 2017

***

Dear Brian,
Thank you for your letter which was passed on to us by the Letters desk. In this case widow was a typo. There is no entry in the Guardian and Observer’s style guide for widow/widower; widowers are male and widows are female.
Best regards,
J.A.
Guardian Readers’ editor’s office
***
Dear J.A.
Of course. My enquiry had its tongue deep in its cheek. Someone in your letters department has a sense of humour in need of a refill. I just thought that some Graundia readers might enjoy my letter if it were to be chosen for publication.
Anyway, thanks for taking the trouble to reply. 
Best,
Brian
Posted in loving memory of my father, who passed down to me his pedantic and slightly obsessive love of language and usage.
***

Kycke against the pricke

Harvey Weinstein / Wikimedia

There’s a scandal involving the disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, and an ensuing discussion about predatory behavior by men in power. Glosso thought it would be interesting to look into “kick against the pricks,” a sadly appropriate expression that’s been cropping up on social media channels in recent days. Is this is a modern turn of phrase? Do people understand what it really means? And when did the word prick first take on its slangy connotations? Glosso investigates … Continue reading

X v Y: The language of sex: come one, come all (come v cum)

KamaSutra

*  *  Warning: contains strong language *  * Language advisory: viewer discretion is advised * *

Reaching the climax of Glosso’s September series, “X v Y”, we’re looking at the difference between come and cum. This is one of Glossophilia’s most popular posts in its six-year history: enjoy. Continue reading

X v Y: To underestimate or overestimate: interchangeable, but only when it can’t be done?

proms

During September, Glossophilia is looking at word pairs that often get muddled up with each other, or that essentially mean the same thing. Today’s is underestimate vs. overestimate. Continue reading

X v Y: The British “public school”: what does public really mean? Private?

etonschoolboys   British public schoolboys 

Glosso’s “X v Y” series tackles the complicated matter of British schools: when are they public, and when are they private? Can any actually be both? Continue reading

X v Y: When it comes to the line, do you “tow” it or “toe” it?

Do you toe the line …

raceline

… or tow the line?

towline     

Are towing and toeing both correct, when it comes to the line? Glosso’s X v Y series takes a look … Continue reading

X v Y: Sarcasm and jealousy: the darker sides of irony and envy (and the irony of Aristotle)

greeneye

Glosso’s series, “X v Y”, takes a look at two sets of words — envy and jealousy, irony and sarcasm — that are often treated as synonyms but actually have substantially different meanings. Continue reading