Posts Tagged ‘language’

Two Girls, One on Each Knee (7): The Puzzling, Playful World of the Crossword

7 November 2013

My book to mark the centenary of the crossword is published today by Penguin. Here it is…

2girls_kew_quotes03

…in Kew Bookshop.

Reviews, etc: Sunday Times; Mail on Sunday; Spectator; Telegraph; Scotsman; Financial Times; Metro; Times; Herald; Globe & Mail.

Hear me: on The Verb and on Weekend.

From the blurb:

• How have crosswords helped international relations, caused a strike by welders, become embroiled with espionage and even caused a moral panic?
  
• What have Frank Sinatra, P. G. Wodehouse and Stephen Sondheim got to do with the humble grid?
  
• What connects Bletchley Park and the Daily Telegraph?
  
Two Girls One On Each Knee•  Which famous fan starts each day with the Telegraph crossword and kippers?
 
On 21 December 2013, the crossword puzzle will be 100 years old. In the century since its birth, it has evolved into the world’s most popular intellectual pastime. In Two Girls, One on Each Knee, Alan Connor celebrates the wit, ingenuity and frustration of this addictive sport and how it has grown.
 
The story of the crossword takes us from the beaches of D-Day to the banks of the river Neva, via Fleet Street and the Old Bailey. It involves the most fiendish setters, such as Torquemada and Ximenes; famous fans (both real and imaginary) from P. G. Wodehouse to Frank Sinatra, Inspector Morse to Reggie Perrin. You’ll discover how crosswords have featured in films such as Brief Encounter and songs by Madness and Ian Dury; how they intersect with espionage, jokes, class and morality; and how they reflect back how our language and behaviour has changed over the last century. You’ll also discover how listening to white noise can help you do a crossword, why you should start in the bottom right-hand corner, and why cryptic crosswords are actually easier than quick (honestly).
  
This is a book about language and how it speaks to itself, twisting and transforming through cryptic clues before resolving itself, with a bit of luck, into an answer. Where else would you find words such as Intussuscept, Obtemperate, Zibet and Raisiny?

You can buy it from your local bookshop, or from Penguin, Waterstones, Amazon, on Kindle, via Google etc…

Twittiquette – or Twemes among Tweeple who Tweetup for Twirting and/or Twisticuffs

5 September 2011

The

I’ve written a piece for the BBC about words beginning with “tw-”, and why people enjoy coining them on Twitter.

“Flick through a dictionary and you’ll notice something about the English language’s ‘tw’ words. We have a few related to ‘two’: twin, twelfth, twilight and so on. And there’s a tiny minority of what you might call fairly sensible words: tweezers, twig and of course tweed.

“The rest, though, tend to be of a type that’s more playful or, depending on taste, more grating. ‘Tw-’ words can be about inanity or ignorance: twit, twerp, twonk or twaddle. They can suggest lightness, smallness or delicacy: tweak, twiddle or twinkle. Or they can flag up that you’re being self-consciously old-fashioned: ’twas and ’twere; ‘twixt and ‘tween. All very twee.”

Sadly there was no room for the etymology of “twonk” – coined/popularised, according to the Telegraph, by John Sullivan to give Del Boy a non-sweary swear word; nor for gay slang “twink” (“with a slender build, little or no body hair, and no facial hair”).

Also, now that we know that “twilight” relates to “two”, why not let’s enjoy some twilights I’ve seen?

The Guardian Crossword Blog

18 August 2011

Guardian crossword

I’ve started a blog about the fun of doing cryptic crosswords at the Guardian. The first post is now live:

“Others suggest [that] those of us hooked on crosswords might want to justify the time passed by pointing to the large vocabulary we’ve amassed – or, perhaps, to our pleonasm, to our Brobdingnagian prolixity. Well, boo-poo to that. (I admit I enjoyed learning the word ‘pleach’ from last Tuesday’s Times, but it may be many years until I get to use it in a sentence near a hedge.)”

It’ll be a mixture of the week’s best and funniest clues, tips for n00bs and features on awesome stuff like when crosswords feature in programmes like Rubicon and The Hour.