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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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Word of the Week: Girl

girl with a pearl earring

Last week’s word, ‘perfect’, received a surprisingly animated response. It seems I’m not the only one who silently sub-edits the innocent things that other people say. But, of course, when you encourage a response you leave yourself open to criticism, and so it turned out. (more…)

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Word of the Week: Perfect

Ford Prefect

I went to hire a car the other day and the girl in the office asked me for my name. This is one of the easier questions I get asked in life – certainly a lot easier than the one about whether or not I want to pay extra to reduce the insurance excess – so I raised myself to my full height and confidently told her.

“Perfect,” she said.

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Word of the Week: Riposte

Word of the Week: riposte

The art of the witty riposte is dead.

“No it isn’t!” I hear you cry.

I rest my case. Let me present you with some evidence. I have recently been researching this very subject for a book, which will make you chuckle and chortle when you read it, because there have, indeed, been some very witty ripostes uttered by people from various walks of life over the years. Politicians, writers, actresses, Ethel from Accounts… But here’s the thing: only a very small proportion were uttered this side of 1980.


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Word of the Week: Buffoon

Word of the Week: buffoon

Back in the 19th and early 20th century, when politicians could be quite witty at times, even the fiercest of political rivals resisted the temptation to throw names at one another, preferring instead to inflict more telling cuts with a rapier-like wit. For example, Benjamin Disraeli’s dismissal of William Gladstone as a man who “has not a single redeeming defect”, or Winston Churchill’s description of Clement Atlee as “a modest man, who has much to be modest about”.

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