Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Dot Wordsworth

Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Dot Wordsworth

Article excerpt

I laughed, in a sympathetic way I hope, when I read a letter in the Daily Telegraph pointing out that Steve Hewlett, the media commentator who died this year, had admitted ruefully that when he had heard that his cancer was progressive he had thought for a moment this was a good thing.

The progressive alliance is this election's equivalent to the old 'broad left', which once inserted foaming revolutionaries into respectable politics. I complained about this label progressive before the 2015 election.

Progressive politicians tend to favour progressive taxation, even though the term is merely technical, indicating that the higher the sum taxed (above £80,000 income, say), the greater the rate of tax on it. The Oxford English Dictionary mentions it under the term soak-the-rich.

The earliest known use of the word progress was Reginald Pecock, who in 1458 became the first English bishop to lose his see through heresy. He was accused of denying belief in the Holy Ghost after referring to 'progress to outward works' coming after prayer, a perfectly orthodox notion.

From the start, progress was often used abstractly and coupled with process. …

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