We did The Times and The Telegraph, but for difficult words preferred Ximenes in The Observer, and I came to love Chambers 20th Century dictionary, with all its obscure Scots words that the crossword-setter demanded.
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Germany was forced to pay the reparations at the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 as compensation to the war-ravaged nations of Belgium and France and to pay the Allies some of the costs of waging what was then the bloodiest conflict in history, leaving nearly ten million soldiers dead.
Hatred of the settlement agreed at Versailles, which crippled Germany as it tried to shape itself into a democracy following armistice, was of significant importance in propelling the Nazis to power.
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.
Yet I would never dream of doing such a thing, however tempting.
This prompted a friend to write a tongue-in-cheek polemic: the foul practice of mallemaroking, he declared, appears to have become unleashed from its native Greenland, and now threatens to extend its tentacles across the entire world. I just cannot imagine any other language offering such opportunities for gaiety and fun. Perhaps not all circumstances are covered, and once I tried to invent a word to fill one tiny niche I felt I discerned in the lexicon.
Reading recently that both the Germans and the Chinese have cracked down on the names people are allowed to have, and knowing that the French and the Italians still have gloom-laden academies to protect the so-called purity of their languages, strips out all the amusement and joy that is so very apparent in the tongue we speak so happily. There seemed no word for the grey water-trail left on the kitchen floor by children who come in from the snow without taking off their wellingtons.
But the things I discover, the ammunition I have for the hours of writing ahead!
For there seems to be a word for every concept, imaginable and many unimaginable.
My favourite for years was "mallemaroking", which an early edition defined as "the carousing of drunken seamen aboard ice-bound Greenland whaling ships", which struck me as a masterly example of hairline linguistic precision.