Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language

Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language

Article excerpt

MY husband made a noise like a stork regurgitating a toad. I thought a dose of whisky had gone down the wrong way, but it was only a semi-voluntary reaction to reading some remarks by Mr Jack Straw.

He (my husband) focused his wrath on an innocuous phrase, one might think: `For a small island we encompass an enormous range. . . . ' He went off, and a few minutes later he stumped back waving a volume of The Children's Encyclopaedia or something. `There,' he said, `islands.'

Sure enough, Britain comes eighth among the world's islands (Australia not counting, being, like Antarctica, a continental land mass). And who could name all the seven islands larger than Britain? Greenland (at 840,000 square miles) I knew. And I could mention Madagascar (at 227,800 square miles compared with Britain's 84,186). But I had forgotten, as second, New Guinea and, third, Borneo - each more than three times Britain's size. …

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