Image: EPA/Loretta Brennan

You sexist/racist/liberal/elitist bastard! How dare you?

7 April 2014 14:49

While he was dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease, Tony Judt found the breath to educate those who believe they could ameliorate pain with soft words and bans on ‘inappropriate’ language.… Continue reading

Tony Blair has convinced plenty of Tories that they need to be Blairites.(PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP/Getty Images)

Tony Blair’s cultural revolution has won, at least in the Conservative Party

17 January 2014 14:34

As Rod pointed out the other day, Arthur Scargill’s purchase of his council flat illustrated the triumph of Thatcherism over its opponents; like any winning ideology it created the conditions… Continue reading

'#TeamNigella' has made our list of the ten most annoying phrases of 2013. (Image: Getty)

The 10 most annoying phrases of 2013

28 December 2013 11:00

Sifting through the heaps of discarded language and redundant memes expended in the last twelve months, it’s clear that they don’t make ‘em like they used to. Ah, for the… Continue reading

The English probably regard immigrants from Anglophone nations like Australia as a more exotic version of the Welsh. But immigrants from Tunisia are a different matter altogether.

Immigration is about culture as well as politics

18 December 2013 12:38

Must say, I felt a bit defensive when I looked at the tables of origin for immigrants to Britain for the decades to 2011, helpfully set out in  The Daily… Continue reading


Why do we cringe at the term ‘third class’?

20 October 2013 16:20

Alas, it looks like the return to third class travel won’t happen. The papers had got terrifically excited about what seemed like a rolling back of 56 years, when British Rail… Continue reading

David Cameron is a feminist who refuses to identify as such. Is this because 'feminism' is out of date?

Why is ‘feminism’ such a dirty word?

30 September 2013 13:47

A few years back I did one of those online debates on the Times website, the subject being why feminism had fallen out of favour. Within about 60 seconds four… Continue reading

Kenneth Tynan: he said it, but he didn't say it first. Photograph: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Foresworn: Jonathan Lethem, Kenneth Tynan, and the unpredictable progress of swearing

2 September 2013 16:31

For a few days last week, it seemed that Jonathan Lethem had achieved something unique: he had become the first person to use a particular four-letter word – the one… Continue reading

England, bound in with the triumphant sea,
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege/ Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame,/ With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds.

Is England too good for the English? Shakespeare’s John of Gaunt seems to think so

26 August 2013 9:30

From Shakespeare’s Richard II, lines spoken by John of Gaunt. This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise,… Continue reading

Had we but world enough and time... (PAL PILLAI/AFP/Getty Images)

To their coy mistresses: two poems about the arts of seduction

17 June 2013 11:18

Andrew Marvell, from ‘To His Coy Mistress’ But at my back I always hear Times winged chariot hurrying near: And yonder all before us lie Deserts of vast eternity. Thy… Continue reading

It should be obvious to a man as intelligent as Prof Steve James that not all believers kill unbelievers. But apparently it isn't.

Discovering poetry: John Donne, from deviant to Dean of St. Paul’s

3 June 2013 12:43

Holy Sonnet 7, John Donne At the round earth’s imagined corners, blow Your trumpets, angels, and arise, arise From death, you numberless infinities Of souls, and to your scattered bodies… Continue reading

Sunset In China's Countryside

Schroder – one man’s journey into night

30 April 2013 10:54

Erik Schroder is an East German who last saw his mother when he was five years old. In 1975 only his unspeaking father crossed the Wall with him into West… Continue reading

The ‘hey nonino’ nonsense in As you Like It has certainly not aged well. But the sense of love and lovers it articulates is timeless. (ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

In defence of William Shakespeare’s nonsense

29 April 2013 10:43

‘It was a lover and his lass’ from As You Like It It was a lover and his lass With a hey and a ho and a hey nonino, That… Continue reading

Charles Moore has written the 'authorized' biography of Margaret Thatcher. Is 'authorized' correct? (PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

The Ize Have It

25 April 2013 10:05

She divided us in life, she’s dividing us in death. Baroness Thatcher was so controversial that a single letter in a single word in the subtitle of a book that… Continue reading

Three Mitford sisters in the early thirties. Nancy Mitford (right) pinched 'U and non-U' pronunciation from Professor Ross, author of 'How to Pronounce It'. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

How To Pronounce It – U and non-U. A guide for George “innit” Osborne.

28 March 2013 11:38

Sometimes, in the joyous lotteries we call ‘secondhand bookshops’, you find a volume that takes you back to a different era because of its physical appearance. Sometimes you find one… Continue reading

The Chancellor George Osborne Prepares To Give His Budget To Parliament

Budget Day: should our times really be called ‘the age of austerity’?

20 March 2013 8:30

It is Budget Day. Prepare for another barrage of “messages” about the virtues or perils, depending on your point of view, of ‘austerity’. From where has this ubiquitous term come?… Continue reading

The word 'lurch' is thought to have nautical origins. (CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/GettyImages)

Help! What is ‘lurching’?

11 March 2013 14:29

David Cameron is not for lurching. No lurch to the right, he says. The word ‘lurch’ underscores commentary on the government’s difficulties; but what does it actually mean? As so… Continue reading

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The choir perform from within the Dome sanctuary of St Paul's Cathedral. Picture: LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty

Discovering poetry: how the Psalms made the English

19 February 2013 11:14

Psalm 42, verses 1-8 Philip Sidney                                         Miles Coverdale Miles Coverdale’s translation of the psalms was among the first fruit of Henry VIII’s ambivalent reformation. The religion of Henry’s England was… Continue reading

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President Barack Obama presents John Ashbery with a National Arts and Humanities Medal in February 2012. Image: Getty

Interview with a writer: John Ashbery

1 February 2013 9:30

John Ashbery is recognized as one of the most eminent American poets of the twentieth-century. He also been called America’s greatest living poet today. Ashbery published his first book of… Continue reading

Junot Diaz, author of 'This is How You Lose Her'. Image: Getty

Junot Diaz, the new Saul Bellow

23 January 2013 17:29

Every so often a writer renovates a whole literary landscape from underneath. Armed to the teeth with slang and learning, Saul Bellow reinvented American prose with The Adventures of Augie… Continue reading

Oxford Street, London, in 1890

Historical directories: Street View for time-travellers - Spectator Blogs

7 January 2013 12:40

Fancy a walk into London’s past? How about a stroll down Fleet Street in 1895? Or Oxford Street in 1899? It can be done. I can’t promise pictures, but I… Continue reading

Which words should be placed on the first available ship out of the English speaking world? Image: Getty

Which words would you ban?

3 January 2013 12:38

Which words in current use would you ban? Lake Superior State University answers this question each year, with its famous ‘List of Words to be Banished from the Queen’s English… Continue reading

Dusk falls and life ends in Thomas Gray's 'Elegy written in a Country Churchyard.' Image: Getty

Do you wish you were far from the madding crowd?

19 November 2012 14:20

From ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’ ‘The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea, The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,… Continue reading

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We English speakers owe so much to our roguish forebears, who revolutionised our language. Image: Getty

The language of criminals

13 September 2012 10:47

The English language is, as English would have it, an odd duck.  Its nuances are capricious — to the non-native, maliciously so — but its lyricism widely praised. My preoccupation… Continue reading


A gallimaufry of new words

23 August 2012 17:52

Walk into a coffee shop on any high street today and you’re confronted by an amazing array of caffeine-connected choices: flat white, red eye and doppio to name a few.… Continue reading


Butlins and the return of the apostrophe - Spectator Blogs

9 August 2012 13:45

When you begin in subediting – the odd little craft of preparing other people’s journalism for publication – certain things, or pairs of things, are drummed into you. St James’… Continue reading