Posts Tagged ‘language’
My book to mark the centenary of the crossword is published today by Penguin. Here it is…
…in Kew Bookshop.
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?
• 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?
My book about the crossword, Two Girls, One On Each Knee (7), has a publication date of 7 November 2013.
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?
“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.
- Topics [ongoing update]: Bletchley Park; Is cheating cheating?; The Ten Commandments of cryptic ethics; Which newspaper is most crossword-friendly?; American vs British crosswords; Where do you solve?; Times Crossword Championship; Meet Anne R Bradford; the 1920s crossword moral panic; what I’ve learned from cryptics
- Meet the Setter [ditto]: Paul; Enigmatist; Anax; Tramp; Boatman
- For beginners [ditto]: Hidden answers; double definitions; soundalikes
- What does each letter mean? [ditto]: A
- Best clues [ditto]: Meta, Morse and Arsenal; Lord Sugar, Rupert Murdoch and the flesh lance; gamesmanship, ice cream and haiku; Elton John, hidden Damons and Moses; Smiley and Nixon; Ed Balls, Ed Miliband and David Cameron; Blur v Oasis; chess and the Tube; booze clues; e-ologisms; should themes be announced?; loos in clues; the ‘scrambled eggs’ chestnut; Occupy London Stock Exchange; new words in Chambers; Romeo and Juliet and Ant and Dec; booze and Dylan Thomas; Erdős-Bacon numbers; Yule clues; cryptic Dickens
- Photo is of Guardian 25,402 by Puck. The only answer I’ve put in is wrong. “A day in dopey stupor, endlessly like t-h-i-s? (6,3)” should give SPACED OUT, not SPREAD OUT as I thought. This bodes ill.
- In 2009, I explained to foreigners why some British families do a jumbo crossword at Christmas.