Portrait of Edd Dumbill, taken by Giles Turnbull

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World Wide Words

I've always been rather fond of words, since a very tender age. As a child I used to join in the often ludicrous pun marathons at the dinner table. The favourite two subjects used to be fairies ("Gnome way? It's sprite.") and pigs ("Sow, is this boaring you? I can trot these out all night.")

A very young Edd reading a book My mother used to take the Daily Telegraph each day, and while I was still young enough not to object violently to its politics, I took advantage of its cryptic crossword. The crossword was pitched at a level to be completed by retired Tory majors, and thus for a reasonably-bright-but-no-genius teenage boy was eminently completable.

Such silliness and affliction has only been indulged in later years by my habitual listening to BBC Radio 4, where the 6.30pm comedy slot often includes a fair dose of punning and wordplay.

It's with some delight, then, that I discovered World Wide Words, a weekly newsletter about words. It is edited by Michael Quinion, and is charmingly English in its air. There are one or two other word-lovers' newsletters around, I used to be a long-term subscriber to A Word A Day, but World Wide Words has a very unique appeal.

Quinion's combination of obsessive interest, domestic British humour and near-schoolboy delight make World Wide Words a great weekly read. There's no missing his amusement at the baser elements of our language either. This week's issue, for example, includes the word "slubberdegullion" (a filthy, slobbering person), which he cites as part of the most amazing stream of invective I have ever seen.

World Wide Words has a bit of everything I enjoy: interesting and strange words, a contemporary and modern approach to language, amusing misuses of language and as an end-piece, wry and perceptive quotations. Heartily recommended!

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