IT IS time for another visit from our ever-popular word expert, Dr Wordsmith. Many of my readers are obviously worried by modern usage and bombard me with queries about the way English is used today, and I am only too happy to lever Dr Wordsmith out of the nearest licensed premises and get him to answer them for me. Take it away, doc !
Tell me, Dr Wordsmith, what the correct word is to use for the action you use with black bin-liner bags.
Dr Wordsmith writes: You fill them up and then chuck 'em in the dustbin.
No, no - I mean before that, I mean that when you get a new bag off the roll to put into the rubbish bin, you can't use the bag immediately, because it's all squashed together and not opened up. So what we normally do is put one hand down inside the bag, flapping it from side to side to open it out, sort of swooshing it from side to side. There should be a word to describe this.
Dr Wordsmith writes: But there isn't, is there? Next, please.
I have always maintained that you can tell a lot about people from what they leave in their cars. You know, if you glance in through an empty car's windows, you can immediately tell the difference between a driver who has got a National Trust carrier bag in the back and one who has got `The Sun'. Or one who's got a map of Hertfordshire and one who still has a map of the Dordogne. I can spend hours in car parks just staring at people's... But people's what? There doesn't seem to be a name for it, for the contents of a car. A word like `jetsam' or `flotsam', perhaps. Is there a word, `carsam'?
Dr Wordsmith writes: No, I don't think there is. There should be, shouldn't there? Next, please!
In all the reports that have come out of Washington recently, about the backstage dealings of Kenneth Starr and the Republicans and the Democrats etc, there has been one phrase noticeably absent, and that is, `smoke- filled back rooms'. In the old days, decisions were always being thrashed out in `smoke-filled back rooms', as if the wreaths of cigar smoke somehow added to the urgency and seriousness of the decisions being thrashed out. …