Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Dot Wordsworth

Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Dot Wordsworth

Article excerpt

My heart leapt up on Newport station, an unusual place for that to happen, when I heard a recorded announcement: 'Wedi sylwi. Wedi sôn. Wedi setlo.'

It was a pleasure to hear it in an ancient language after so often having been annoyed by the English equivalent from the British Transport Police: 'See it. Say it. Sorted.' To make matters worse, one of the accompanying posters, the Jewish Chronicle reported, showed 'a suspicious-looking man with dark hair, long beard and a hooked nose'.

Even when the Nazi reminders had been sorted out, the word sorted remained unpopular. It is a verb used by threatening figures in EastEnders: 'Sort it.' It belongs to the same world as 'Shut it'.

The sorted disease has now been caught by The Archers. In Sunday's omnibus there were at least five instances, from Joe Grundy, Will, Toby and Pip (who wanted to 'sort it myself'). Only Jennifer, who I half remember has a degree in English, held out with the traditional sorted out.

I cannot deny that, through the centuries, sort has conveyed quite similar meanings to the one we dislike. The OED lists 19 different senses for the verb. …

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