Prose & Cons - by John MacDonald

 

"Prose & Cons began life in 1990 as a weekly column in The Mercury, the morning paper in Durban, South Africa. The pen-name Wordsworth is self-evident – you got your ‘word’s worth’ from the read. The column ran for about 10 years and pre-dated the internet, when not everyone had access to the full Oxford English Dictionary and other etymological reference books. Now, of course, anyone interested in the origins of words and phrases can find all they need to know with a few strokes of the keyboard. Many websites are dedicated to the theme and my thanks are due to Project Tesseract curator, Rohan Roberts, for bringing the Prose & Cons archives into the electronic era."  - John MacDonald

 

John is the host of Emirates Airline Festival of Literature Talking of Books (103.8 Dubai Eye Radio). He is a journalist, a raconteur, and a voracious reader of books on science, literature, philosophy, and art. It is no exaggeration to say, John is one of the most interesting personalities in Dubai. 

17 Feb 2015

THE EDITOR told the sedate Idler: "You are a lues upon the flote. Just because you occasionally work a bit of the literary niellie on the back page, don't think you belong to the recto, and no amount of saying it with sego will make me change my mind.

 

"You insult the intelligence of our readers by claiming that certain words are obscure - just because you've never heard of them and can't get past the average score in the Word...

12 Feb 2015

South Africa has thankfully been spared (at least so far) from the more virulent strains of the pernicious linguistic anemia known as PC.PC, or politically correct to give the disease its self-styled handle, was incubated in America and has now reached epidemic proportions in the land of the free and easy English usage.

 

 It has quickly crossed the Atlantic, to be embraced with fervor by Britain’s loony fringe who invented term...

10 Feb 2015

 

Of all the dictionaries that have ever been produced- and there have been plenty- few can claim to be so entertaining as Ambrose Bierce’s version.

 

Bierce was author of The Devil’s Dictionary, first published in 1906 as The Cynic’s World Book. The weak title, Bierce complained, was forced upon him by the religious scruples of the newspaper which then employed him and where sections of the dictionary first appeared.

 

When he mov...

5 Feb 2015

In spite of their long-running feud with the English as a nation, the Irish show a remarkable affinity for the English language.

 

From boycott to blarney, hooligans and hoodlums, shebeen, poteen, shillelagh and many more, the Irish influence has enriched our vocabulary.

 

Perhaps not so obviously Irish is an exceptionally common word of four letters which has a weird and improbable ancestry. The word is "quiz" - at first glance a...

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