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Word of the Week: Guy

A few weeks ago the annual census of new baby names was published, revealing that, for the four hundredth year in a row, the boy’s name Oliver and the girl’s name Olivia were among the top five most popular names for UK newborns. What is this fixation with olive farming?

Not so popular was Adolf, which, for the 80th year running, did not feature in the list. And with good reason. No-one wants to name their offspring after an enemy of the people. But there is one notable exception. (more…)

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Word of the Week: Like


To create the optimum atmosphere for watching the Rugby World Cup Final tomorrow, I’ve been putting together a playlist of classic tunes from 2003, the year England last won it. It features two of my favourite songs of all time, Milkshake by Kelis and United States of Whatever by Liam Lynch.

What do I like about them? Well, among other things, the way they use the word ‘like’: ie, not as in “what do I like about them?” but as in, like, a figure of speech that just sort of happens, kind of thing. It’s time we tackled this.

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Word of the Week: Pseudonym

false nose and glasses

Regular listeners to radio phone-in shows will be familiar with the phrase “Not her/his real name.” This occurs when they’re talking about some sensitive issue, like gender neutral toilets or bad feet or one as a result of the other, and someone calls or writes in wishing to comment without being identified.

So the presenter will give them a pseudonym. For example, “Sarah Evans (not her real name) writes…” Which raises all sorts of questions. All sorts. (more…)

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Word of the Week: Humbug

A bug with wings

There’s something spooky going on. Earlier this week I was offered a Werther’s Original by my friend Nick and we were extolling the virtues of this caramel flavoured confection. This naturally led on to us finishing the packet while discussing similar ‘old man’s car sweets’ like Murray Mints and Humbugs. Beautiful. I haven’t had a Humbug in years, nor even heard the word.

So imagine my surprise when I turned on the radio on Thursday morning to hear that Boris Johnson had caused a furore on the floor of the House by using the very same word that I’d spent several minutes discussing on Monday! Was this some sort of voodoo? Could my casual discourse somehow be influencing the Prime Minister? (more…)

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Word of the Week: Scrum

A scrum of painted youngsters

What’s Freddie Mercury got to do with the Rugby World Cup? I’ll tell you.

Let’s begin with a coincidence: that being that on a day of worldwide protests against climate change, the Rugby World Cup has kicked off in Japan. Why is that a coincidence? Because rugby scrums contribute more to the degradation of the planet’s atmosphere than just about any other feature of sport you care to mention. And that includes Nigel Farage playing chess.


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Word of the Week: Fig


Anyone got any good fig recipes? I’ve got figs like other people have mice. Don’t get me wrong, I love a fig. This ancient, nutritious fruit, possibly the first foodstuff to be cultivated, is an exotic treat of a Friday morning in early autumn. Figs also carry their flowers inside the fruit and you have to respect them for that. It’s just that they don’t last.

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