Sophisticated? Pretentious? Moi?

It was good to see that yesterday’s Word of the Day, ‘sophistry’, was also used at least twice in yesterday’s Guardian. ‘But I doubt many people believe this is anything other than sophistry in pursuit of profit’ said Chris Hawkey and it appeared in Comment is Free too (online only): ‘The piece opens with a clever piece of sophistry….’ Clearly Word of the Day is in step with the Zeitgeist (Word of the Day for 12 April 2006). What’s that? Pretentious? Moi?

Ah yes, Wednesday’s word is: pretentious. We’re just a few paces behind Hadley Freeman in today’s paper.

Further suggestions for Word of the Day will be gratefully received – from journalists, actors, critics and any others who have fearlessly probed the spirit of the times in search of truth, themselves, an audience or just someone to talk to.

What lies beyond?

‘Lord Mandelson is “beyond anger”‘, says Jackie Ashley in today’s Guardian, ‘which must be quite a sight.’ It reminds me of the sign over the cosmetics section in Harvey Nichols, which reads ‘Beyond Beauty’. For those who can pay Harvey Nichols prices (we only went in for a cup of tea, since that at least was affordable), it seems that mere beauty must be too plain, too common, too readily bought at counters of mere High Street stores. ‘The quest for healthy skin is on going,’ they say. ‘On going’ where? What lies beyond beauty: the ineffable? Or ugliness? Perhaps only the very rich know, for truly they live in another country.

And where do we imagine Lord Mandelson to be in his ‘beyond anger’ state? Is he crouched under his Lord-High-Everything desk in whimpering despair? Is he going through the roof in an ecstasy of rage? Or has he attained that blessed calm that comes from knowing it’s not worth it? A page earlier in today’s paper, Madeleine Bunting extols the virtues of ‘such counter-cultural values as humility, patience and contentment’. Rubies beyond price, though I didn’t see them on the shelves of Harvey Nichols.

Forgotten and soon gone altogether?

Today is National Poetry Day. To celebrate, The Guardian has an interactive quiz taken from I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud: And Other Poems You Half-Remember from School. They also have an attractive set of pictures to illustrate the Top ten nursery rhymes. ‘Booktrust asked 2,500 poeple [sic] to name their favourite nursery rhyme. All together now … here are the top 10.’ Less cheerfully, The Telegraph gloomily forecast Traditional nursery rhymes could be heading for extinction. Rhymes which have been passed down from parent to child for generations are being shunned for more fashionable modern alternatives, ‘experts have warned’. However, they cite one expert, Professor Roger Beard of the Institute of Education (I hope he has a really long beard, too) as slightly contradicting their headline: ‘It is not dying out, but it is a recurring concern that parents of young children are not being encouraged to use nursery rhymes as often as they might do.’

So Booktrust will distribute one million books of the nation’s top eight rhymes in celebration of Bookstart, to help today’s parents rediscover their love for the rhymes. I wonder why they announce the ‘top ten’ but only print eight? Are they inadvertently helping to kill off the unfortunate ninth and tenth: ‘Send for chooper to chop off his head’? Good gracious, they even list ‘Jack And Jill’ as the last of the ‘least popular’ rhymes!