Category Archives: Words

How to convey bad news with wit

Notice by escalator at Waterloo station

Just when some of us were worried about getting a train home because of a possible strike, I spotted this notice by one of the escalators at Waterloo station. It made me laugh. Whereas it could simply have said “Out of order”, someone had taken the trouble to write a specific, helpful notice. It suggested […]

Can an adjective be dangerous?

Almost certainly yes, when it comes to matters of life and death. Following the Grenfell Tower fire, building regulations have come under scrutiny, especially where they deal with combustible materials. Until recently, materials were described as combustible or non-combustible, according to the Fire Protection Association’s managing director, Jonathan O’Neill. In other words, they either burned […]

Wogan’s words

Tributes to the much-loved broadcaster, Terry Wogan, speak of his ability to communicate with millions as if they were his friends. Many also mention his skilful use of the English language. When the BBC was taken to task some years ago for failing to police its presenters’ and reporters’ use of English, the campaigners made […]

New Year, new words

2016 is sure to throw up new words and phrases. Some will enrich the language; others will die if they don’t prove useful. I came across a delightful word, new to me, at an exhibition at the British Museum called “Celts, art and identity”: findspot. It means just what you’d expect – the place where […]