Make Me A Pedant Lord- But Not Yet


  • Don Anderson


'POLTROON. An abject and contemptible coward. From Old Italian poltrone, lazy good-for-nothing, apparently from poltrire, to lie indolently in bed.' In a word, ME. There I was helpless in my hospital bed, an eminent anaesthetist (or anaesthesiologist, if the Americans take over our language as they have our hotel rooms) about to insert a needle for an antibiotic and saline drip into my right arm my writing arm! - and he asks me what I do and I admit to being a member of the University of Sydney's English Department (happily, I don't have time to confess to being a newspaper columnist) and he turns out also to be an aesthetician, when it comes to matters linguistic. One of his sons, he informs me, sounding a note of betrayal of which Oedipus' dad would not have been unproud (pardon me, George Orwell!), recently used 'criteria' as a singular noun! And did I know that journalists had to be given lessons in how to write? The drip inserted, he lent (loaned?) me a copy of Wayne speak to cheer me up.