Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language

Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language

Article excerpt

NOW that we have had time to take our Christmas presents back to the shop and change them, perhaps we can settle down for a minute or two with a cup of lapsang souchong and watch the New Year's flood of nonce-words bobbing like scum on the surface of the daily media as it rushes by.

I do not think Buzz Lightyear need detain us much, beyond noting that the newspaper writers sometimes still think that light-years are a measurement of time instead of being about six million million miles. Mr Lightyear (or is it Major Lightyear?) will, like the Spice Girls, provide nothing but a pretty puzzle to scribblers in 50 years' time who come across references to his totemic attractions in some yellow cutting or dustbin of computer files.

What about those skates with the little wheels all in a straight line instead of arranged in tandem as they were when we roller-skated? I understand that Rollerblade is a trade name (though that need not prevent it passing as a common noun). More modish is in-line skates. The in-line-ness of them is scarcely the point, it is a mere refinement of a craze (like Big Foot ski-lets, as used by the Prince of Wales - the plural of which is Big Foots, I notice, not Big Feet). …

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