Ever wondered why there’s a silent b in doubt? Or, if you can be unkempt, can you be kempt? Or why the plural of mongoose is not mongeese?
These, and many other idiosyncrasies, were the subject of Susie Dent’s talk about the hidden meanings and secret pasts of our language for the latest in the Godolphin and Latymer Public Lecture Series in aid of the school Bursary Fund. Self-described as ‘That woman in Dictionary Corner,’ Susie is an English lexicographer and etymologist who recently celebrated 25 years as the resident word expert on Channel 4's Countdown.
Susie talked about her love of orphaned negatives (dishevelled, uncouth, disgruntled etc.), the joy of etymologists when they can pinpoint the exact origin of an expression, and how inadvertent mistakes lie behind some of the joyful quirks of the English language.
A question and answer period concluded the evening and everyone in attendance left safe in the knowledge that neither social media nor text message abbreviations would lead to the demise of our ever-evolving English Language.