And so, in every gruesome detail, and in an open-plan Thameslink carriage, I related the saga: the sharpening of the blade, the tying of the ligature, the gritted teeth, the fatal slice – and, as I said this, so every whey-faced businessman in the carriage crossed his legs reflexively. I relish them all and, quite frankly, blame my father, plus whoever it was in New York who invented the crossword in the 1920s, for my passion.
For my father was a fanatic, and he urged me as a callow teenager to compete with him to see who could do this paper's crossword the faster, a cornflakes box as a barrier between us.
I will always remember the magical moment when I saw and heard a brand new English word being created.
* Phelpsian The accomplishments of Michael Phelps at the Beijing Olympics.
* Quendy-Trendy British youth-speak for hip or up-to-date.
I bought my first 17-volume set back in the Eighties, in Hong Kong.
I will long remember carrying the books downstairs from a shop in On Lan Street, and stuffing them into the boot of my car during a furious typhoon, sheeting rain and lightning. I have three complete sets, including one, bound in dark blue leather and titled in gold, that OUP gave me for writing about the history of what someone called "the greatest piece of sensational serial literature ever written". Each morning I take a randomly selected volume to what the Arabs call "the cave of making" and ponder it for more blissful minutes than I imagine most proctologists would think prudent.
Source: The Global Language Monitor The Big Short, the film adaptation of Michael Lewis' book of the same name about the causes of the financial crisis, opens in UK cinemas this weekend.
How will the story stack up against the greatest films about business?* Wonderstar As in Susan Boyle, an overnight sensation, exceeding all reasonable expectations.* Zombie Banks Banks that would be dead if not for government intervention.At the ticket window were two elderly women lexicographers, off to London for the theatre. I could see the lexicographical gears grinding in their minds. And Mr Winchester, if you can include this new word in an illustrative sentence in the book you are writing, then we will include it in the next edition of the OED, and you'll be a small part of history." And so I did, and it duly was and I duly am, and there autopeotomy lies for ever, part of the glittering marvels that make up the English language and which, on Wednesday, is set to celebrate the creation of its one millionth word, according to the Global Language Monitor, a Texas-based association of academics that tracks the use of new words.As we boarded the train, I warned them: have I ever got a story to tell you. Then suddenly, and in unison I swear, they spoke: "Autopeotomy! Then one to the other: "Yes, Mildred – peotomy is the amputation of the penis. It is not known which the millionth word will be, but those on the brink of entering the language as finalists for the one millionth English-language word include "zombie banks", or those banks that would be defunct without government intervention; the pejorative "noob", referring to a newcomer to a given task or community, as in "She's a complete noob to guerrilla gardening"; and "quendy-trendy", meaning hip or up-to-date.They say the next edition of the OED, accommodating all one million of our words, will amount to 40 volumes – enough to be used perhaps to construct the platform of a raft.