Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Dot Wordsworth

Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Dot Wordsworth

Article excerpt

Staring at a brown envelope, my husband said: 'I'll deal with that post-breakfast,' and then laughed as though he had made a joke. In his mind it was a play on words, the unspoken words being post-Brexit . It is true that no one is safe from that phrase these days. As a compound adjective, it's not so bad: post-Brexit prosperity . As an adverb, it sounds awkward to me: prices rising post-Brexit .

The word Brexit itself was established as more than a passing vogue only after the referendum, I think. It had been invented in 2012, on the pattern of the portmanteau word Grexit 'Greek exit', and while the prospect of Greece falling out of the EU was still a live topic, Brexit was far less used, partly because it sounded too much like Grexit for easy comprehension.

Post- has been a plaything for centuries of poets and their kind. In a letter from 1733, Alexander Pope wrote of something being 'labour'd, corrected, præcommended and post-disapprov'd'. John Donne, 100 years earlier, had formed the term post-cribrated (meaning 'sieved again') on the conscious model of a 15th-century book by Nicholas of Cusa called Cribratio Alchorani or Sifting the Koran . …

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