Stalin and Thatcher….

I had a rather splendid day today. As regular readers are no doubt aware, I teach English during the summer months..Today saw the return of the Russians and their charming tour leader and a rather pleasant Russian English teacher. The result of which got me thinking about the English language …

Americans and speaking English….

I read recently that we British are getting rather hot under the collar about the English language. If you Google the word “Americanisms” you will find red faced pedants claiming that the Americans are swamping, killing and absorbing British English. If the British are not careful, so their argument goes, …

The race meeting that never existed…..

Racing has always attracted trickery, schemes and coups. But what follows is without doubt is the most delicious con of all time. The greatest sting in the history of horse racing took place on August 1, 1898. It was without doubt the most audacious scheme ever thought up. A very …

Where did the word Holiday come from?…

In Saxon times and in the Middle Ages, days were long and hard for craftsmen and peasants alike, who laboured from sunrise to sunset. The regularity of their existence was periodically interrupted by Church feast days which were set aside for religious celebration instead of work. The Old English word …

Gorm, Feck, Ruth and a jolly good gruntle…

There is a wonderful line in P.G. Wodehouse’s , The Code of the Woosters which reads: I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled. The resurrection of palimpsest words is a simple, practically failsafe, form of humour. There are thousands of them loitering in …

The Importance of being Idle…

Apparently a fainéant is an idler and a sluggard. Somehow you can guess that without bothering to dig out your dictionary. Fainéants sound lazy. Why? Why, dear inactive reader, did you suspect immediately that a fainéant was a lazybones, a lie-a-bed, and a lotus-eater. Perhaps it was the suggestion of faint, with …

Druthers, Nigel Farage and Tar Babies…..

There are precisely a million and one little differences between American and British English. I once had to go into hiding after stubbing out a fag butt in San Francisco. Here for the sake of mutual comprehension and edification are two rather strange and wayward usages from that wonderfully odd …

T.S. Eliot, toilet and turds….

It now appears the reason why T.S. Eliot insisted on his middle initial was because he was painfully aware of what his name would have spelled backwards without it. His great friend W.H Auden (whose H was idiopathic) wrote a palindrome on the subject: T. Eliot, top bard, notes putrid …

Pilgrims…

The Holy Land, the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul in Rome, those of St James at Santiago de Compostela in Spain and St Thomas a Becket in Canterbury were great centres of medieval pilgrimage. A pilgrim was easily identified by the way he dressed. He wore a rough grey …