my rants about words

Verbal detox™ – the shortest cut of all

In my last column I unveiled my verbal detox™ concept, which involves using as few words as possible to convey your meaning. I promised some practical examples and an introduction to the man I credit with planting the idea for the verbal detox™ in my mind.   Once written, twice distilled To recap, going on a verbal detox™ […]

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Skollie

I was offended by the name my neighbourhood watch used to enlist volunteers for a midnight mountain patrol. Unsure whether my outrage was justified, I explored the meaning and origins of the word ‘skollie’ and examined my own reaction to this word. My local neighbourhood watch, which is both efficient and effective, called on residents […]

Why is the Famous Five series no longer a jolly good read?

I grew up with Julian, Dick, Anne, Georgina (George) and their dog, Timothy (Timmy). I feel like I explored Kirrin Island with them under the watchful gaze of the nurturing Aunty Fanny and the detached Uncle Quentin. My 6-year-old nephew, Ethan, adores old books in their original format and prefers his Enid Blyton well-worn. He […]

Sticks and stones may break my bones but (misspelled) names will ruin my day

Our given names are an integral part of our identity. Whether chosen because of a famous namesake, in tribute to or memory of a loved one or just because our parents liked that name more than others, our name is how we are introduced to the world. And, unless we dislike it enough to brave […]

How bad writing can harm a brand’s image – it’s not hip to be (Wembley) Square (Part 5)

I jumped back onto my high horse after an innocent trip to the loo, a dilemma and a solution served up on a silver platter. My previous columns on how bad writing can ruin otherwise good marketing targeted Foschini andStandard Bank and involved a good deal of research into their online marketing and social media interactions. My latest […]

‘Twas brillig and the slithy tweeps did kvetch and kibitz*

I eavesdropped on a Twitter conversation about Yiddish insults and then joined in. The exchange made me think afresh about this colourful language and its enduring influence. It started out like any other weekend afternoon: thekinderlekh were at their bubbe and zayde and we were enjoying the freedom of not having toschlep them around. Rael was watching sport –Nu? Mah Nishtanah? – and […]

‘Only the good die young’ and other untruths

I am consumed by thoughts of death and the way we talk, write and sing about it following a friend’s slow, painful death.

I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go

“South Africa’s unemployment rate is now 25%. How do we solve this massive problem?”

This came through on my Twitter Feed last week from Skye Grove, Communications Manager of Cape Town Tourism. And it left me feeling both inadequate and helpless.

Jack and Jill – a rather sinister nursery rhyme?

My nephew, who turns six this week, has begun playing “find the homonym”. Of course he doesn’t call it the homonym game; to him it is the game of finding words that sound the same but have different meanings.

My five-year-old son loves the game and we played it on a recent car trip. To my surprise he came up with “pale”. He explained it as both “a light kind of colour” and “a bucket”. Intrigued, I asked him how he knew that a pail was a bucket. “From Jack and Jill, mom”, he answered, rather annoyed at having to explain this obvious connection.

When is a Piggy not a piggy? The state of banking in SA

Here I reflect on the declining culture of saving in the modern world. Well, that is what I intended to do, but I got side-tracked.