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Language

(Image: Hulton Archive)

‘Community leader’, ‘call out’, ‘dreamer: The worst words and phrases in the English language

31 October 2014 12:54

In this week’s magazine Rod Liddle has a piece on the worst ‘clichés, lies, evasions, obfuscations, PC euphemisms and disingenuous balls words and phrases which, in recent years, have annoyed… Continue reading

79 Comments
demons

Fatuous phrase of the week

14 October 2014 9:20

Every day, without fail, some celebrity or public figure will be quoted spouting a meaningless or disingenuous off-the-cuff cliché, to either big himself up or excuse some misdemeanour. Or simply… Continue reading

254 Comments
NickC

Spastics, cretins and the political correctness of the right

23 June 2014 16:25

Ruth Richards, head of communications at Mind, has written a response to my criticism of the pointlessness of politically correct descriptions of the mentally ill and handicapped. As you would… Continue reading

57 Comments
Mark Bonney, Canon Treasurer at Salisbury Cathedral, holds the cathedral's copy of Magna Carta. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

‘Britishness’ debate: can you do Magna Carta without also doing God?

17 June 2014 16:02

Was anyone terribly surprised by the Social Attitudes Survey published today suggesting that most people thought that, in order to be British, you should be able to speak English? Some… Continue reading

48 Comments
The great civil rights activist W. E. B. Du Bois knew that 'the name' is not the thing that counts, it is 'the Thing' that counts. (Image: Getty)

The cheating language of equality

10 June 2014 12:52

If you write about the mentally ill – people who suffer a short breakdown, maybe, or long periods of crippling stress – or say that those who must cope with… Continue reading

74 Comments
Chancellor George Osborne Visits Pharmaceutical Company Pfizer

If only Austin Mitchell had called Pfizer ‘racists’

15 May 2014 14:25

I see the veteran Labour MP Austin Mitchell is in trouble for having used the word rape in a ‘deeply offensive’ context. He had castigated the government for having failed… Continue reading

36 Comments
Visitors At The Hay Festival 2011

Austin Mitchell, ‘rapists’ and the death of language

14 May 2014 17:52

In further proof that the devil makes work for idle thumbs, Labour MP Austin Mitchell described Pfizer as ‘rapists’ in a tweet. All hell has since broken loose. All of… Continue reading

45 Comments
Pope Francis: Getty Images

Did the pope say ‘inequality is the root of all social evil’?

30 April 2014 10:52

The following blog from a Catholic commentator about the Pope’s controversial tweet suggesting that “inequality is the root of social evil” puts the row about it on Twitter into context.… Continue reading

5 Comments
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

84 Comments
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

84 Comments
'#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

102 Comments
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

92 Comments
RAF Men

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

61 Comments
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

48 Comments
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

5 Comments
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

7 Comments
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

2 Comments
Journey Of The Cross And Icon Takes Place In Sydney

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

2 Comments
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

0 Comments
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

2 Comments
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

3 Comments
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

23 Comments
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

0 Comments
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

1 Comment
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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