… when you’re travelling in England: Continue reading
Here’s the last exchange of letters (unpublished) between my late father and The Guardian: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?
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
As the great American novelist Philip Roth has recently commented to the New Yorker: “Whatever I may have seen as their limitations of character or intellect, neither [Richard Nixon nor George W. Bush] was anything like as humanly impoverished as Trump is: ignorant of government, of history, of science, of philosophy, of art, incapable of expressing or recognizing subtlety or nuance, destitute of all decency, and wielding a vocabulary of seventy-seven words that is better called Jerkish than English.”
Courtesy Twitter and The Onion.
In honor of the new documentary Weiner, which hits cinemas this week, Glossophilia is re-posting this short essay on the etymology of wiener, which was originally published when Big Weiner was running for mayor … Continue reading
“I really didn’t say everything I said.”
Yogi Berra, one of America’s most famous baseball players, died yesterday. He will go down in history not just for his famous catches, but also for his catchy phrases, which came to be known as “Yogiisms”. His nonsensical witticisms took the form of obvious tautologies* or paradoxical contradictions.
Some famous Yogiisms: Continue reading
From the Oxford English Dictionary:
Trump: vt. slang break wind audibly
From the Online Etymology Dictionary:
Trump (v.): “fabricate, devise,” 1690s, from trump “deceive, cheat” (1510s), from Middle English trumpen (late 14c.), from Old French tromper “to deceive,” of uncertain origin. Apparently from se tromper de “to mock,” from Old French tromper “to blow a trumpet.” Brachet explains this as “to play the horn, alluding to quacks and mountebanks, who attracted the public by blowing a horn, and then cheated them into buying ….” The Hindley Old French dictionary has baillier la trompe “blow the trumpet” as “act the fool,” and Donkin connects it rather to trombe “waterspout,” on the notion of turning (someone) around. … Trumped up “false, concocted” first recorded 1728.
Back in 2013, on The Guardian‘s Notes and Queries page, a man called Jeff Rushton from London asked this very good question:
Why exactly do the British say lieutenant as ‘leftenant’?
Armchair linguists on both sides of the Atlantic offered up various answers and suggestions: here’s a selection for your interest and entertainment … Continue reading
Celebrating its 70,000th visitor earlier today, Glossophilia brings you its 21 most popular posts so far. Subjects include Cockney Rhyming Slang and other quirky Englishisms; contranyms and homophones; when to use which and when to use that; British tea – when is it low and when is it high? and British school – when is it public and when is it private?; some modern words like yolo and like, and a not-so-modern one: dildo. And, of course, some American-British differences that we can never get enough of — this time in the kitchen pantry …
Enjoy (them)! Continue reading
It’s a strange verb, to grow. Usually we talk about things or people growing intransitively — ie. without an object. “The size of the crowd grew.” “She has grown so tall.” “The government’s power is growing.” There’s really no limit to what can grow, on its own, in an intransitive sense. However, when it comes to using the verb transitively — ie. when we’re talking about “growing something“, rather than seeing it grow under its own steam, then most bets are suddenly off: we only grow transitively when we’re referring to natural, living things. We grow plants, flowers and our own food; we grow beards, and our hair; we even grow pot-bellies — whether we like it or not. But it’s only recently that the transitive use of the verb itself has begun to grow: now embracing inanimate objects and abstract items, grow is beginning to mean “expand” — and you can grow anything from your circle of friends to an economy or an international corporation’s revenue (whereas before they grew only intransitively). The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage advises against this growing trend of growing anything unnatural transitively: “The newer usage of grow to mean expand (grow the business; grow revenue) is business jargon, best resisted.”
Disappear is another dodgy suspect when it comes to its transitive use. Continue reading