Opinion / Writing and Language

Dead Cats Matter

This piece was first posted at the now defunct US website PunditWire. I had a lot of good stuff there, now lost to civilisation. So I’ll repost updated versions of some of my pieces here, to let them linger on the Internet a while longer. This one on ‘framing’ is […]

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Diana’s Own Words

Channel 5 has shown a rather good programme about the life of Diana, Princess of Wales as revealed by her public speeches and interviews. Here is the link – it no doubt will fade away from the Internet soon. I was interviewed for this and for a companion programme on […]

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Meghan and Harry Can’t Write

Here is Sky News sharing with a startled world the full text of a letter or announcement sent by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to four UK newspapers. Oh dear. Let’s while away the #COVID19 emptiness by going through it in all its ineptitude. Wait … is it a […]

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English Pluralz: S and Z

Foreigners! Looking to improve your English at a stroke? Get right the difference between the -S and -Z sounds. This does not apply only to words ending in -s (usually plural nouns or present tense verbs), but that’s a good place to start to grasp the distinction. Thus. The sounds […]

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Correct Punctuation

School-children may get asked grammar questions like this: Is this punctuated correctly? “Aslam’s home was broken into by thieves. When, he was away in Lahore on business” On the whole, not! It depends what you mean by ‘correctly’, and that depends on what EXACTLY you want to say. Punctuation is about […]

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Quitting Quora

I previously have mentioned my presence on Quora. I have posted all sorts of things there, one reason why this very blog is now anaemic. But enough is enough. I have (I think) set in motion the deletion of my Quora account and all my now sprawling Quora content. Quora […]

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British Accents

Can you spot a fake British accent? Can you spot a real one? Once back in Belgrade I was talking to a woman married to a Dutch diplomat. I told her that her English was absolutely superb. She told me that she WAS English. The point was that as she […]

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Translating Polish into English

I previously have looked at some subtle issues of translating good Polish into good English: Take Polish. It has a (for most of us) unpronounceable idiom meaning (variously) within arm’s reach or so close you can touch it: na wyciągnięcie ręki. In a metaphorical sense it denotes something very close, in a […]

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#COVID19: Measuring Measurement

So, there I was all set to plunge into the fray at TEDxNCHLondon to opine on the broad if oddly titled subject of Activism in the Modern Day when the event was postponed for COVID19 reasons. I even had my snazzy PowerPoint more or less ready: Wait! How long is a metre? What […]

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Brexit and Speeches

Here is a quite splendid and magisterial view of the rise and rise of Brexit as seen through many different speeches down the decades, written by John O’Sullivan. John has been tackling this question ever since the UK joined the EU. He has form: I first became a Brexiteer (or, […]

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