Contextualize

Article excerpt

Robert Silvers, the founding editor of The New York Review of Books, discussed his personal list of banned words and phrases in an interview to mark his 50th year in the chair. 'Framework/ said the grand old man, 'could rightly refer to the supporting structure of a house, or a wooden construction for holding roses or hollyhocks in a garden, but now the word is used to refer to any system of thought or any arrangement of ideas. And it really means nothing/

How right he is. A scan of the electronic database reveals 1,358 uses of the word in British newspapers in one month. There is a 'legislative framework', a 'moral framework' and a 'macroeconomic framework', but nothing that would support a flower, let alone a house.

Next on Silvers' list was 'context', which I thought was a bit strict. But then, perhaps it is better to have an absolute ban to stamp out a word that is misused at least three- quarters of the time. Again, a resort to the electronic cuttings library vindicates the wisdom of our elder - or, at least, at 83, older than most of us. …