Do dendrologists ever get a hangover?

`Long John Silver, not John "Long" Silver; Sugar Ray Robinson, not Ray "Sugar" Robinson. Why is this?'

OUR LINGUISTICS expert Dr Wordsmith was here yesterday answering your questions about the way we speak in the Nineties, and he's here again today - indeed he may well have spent the night here in the office, judging from the ashtrays and empty Beamish tins. But I think he's just about ready to tackle your inquiries about the state of the English language today, so here we go with the first one...

Dear Dr Wordsmith, Have you noticed that in autumn trees shed their leaves in different ways ? Many poplars, for instance, lose all their leaves at the bottom but keep some at the top, so that from a distance they can look like a peacock's feather, all bushy at the top. Other trees lose the top leaves first, which is what you would expect, and keep the last ones at the base of the tree.

Dr Wordsmith writes: Do you have a question?

Dear Dr Wordsmith, Yes, I do. I just wanted to know if there were any dendrological word to describe the two complete opposite processes.

Dr Wordsmith writes: There may well be. Go ask a dendrologist. Next!

Dear Dr Wordsmith, Further to your last correspondent, I have noticed that sometimes you get a street light in London right up against the foliage of a plane tree, and the leaves within two or three feet of the lamp stay green long after other leaves have turned brown and fallen, so many a London plane has this odd patch of green in an otherwise bare tree. I wonder, is there a name for the process whereby warmth can arrest autumn in its tracks?

Dr Wordsmith writes: Then you wonder alone. Ask an urban dendrologist. Next!

Dear Dr Wordsmith, Recently someone has discovered the remains of a huge dinosaur in the Southern States which they have christened the `sauroposeidon', which apparently is Greek for `lizard that causes earthquakes'. What I want to know is, why do prehistoric animals all get Greek names, with the sole exception of `Tyrannosaurus rex', whereas living animals and plants all get Latin-based names?

Dr Wordsmith writes: Good question.

Dear Dr Wordsmith, And what's the answer?

Dr Wordsmith writes: I only wish I knew. Next!

Dear Dr Wordsmith, I was listening to BBC Radio the other day...

Dr Wordsmith writes: This isn't going to be another anti-Melvyn Bragg exercise, is it?

Dear Dr Wordsmith, Certainly not! I was listening to Russell Davies's excellent `Jazz Century' series on Radio 3, but couldn't help noticing that he said the guitarist Richard Green was a former alumnus of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys. Can that be right?

Dr Wordsmith writes: I have no idea. My interest in jazz and country guitar is strictly limited.

Dear Dr Wordsmith: No, no, you get me wrong. I am just interested in the phrase `former alumnus'. Is that not tautology ? An `alumnus' is by definition a `former pupil' or `old boy', so a `former alumnus' would be a `former former pupil', which is nonsense. You can never stop being a `former pupil', any more than you can ever stop being an ex-wife of someone.

Dr Wordsmith writes: Except by marrying them again, of course.

Dear Dr Wordsmith, Yes, but...

Dr Wordsmith writes: Next!

Dear Dr Wordsmith, In the jazz connection I have a curious observation to make. Many jazz musicians have had nicknames, such as `Muggsy' Spanier and `Zoot' Sims. Sometimes these musicians are called by both their first names and their nicknames, as in Henry `Red' Allen and Eddie `Lockjaw' Davies, but if so, the nickname always comes after the first name. They are never called `Red' Henry Allen. But in other spheres this is not so. Long John Silver is not called John `Long' Silver. Sugar Ray Robinson was not called Ray `Sugar' Robinson. Do you know why this is? And why do we say Alfred Lord Tennyson and not Lord Alfred Tennyson? Was `Lord' a nickname?

Dr Wordsmith writes: Go ask a nomenclaturist.

Dear Dr Wordsmith, May I ask why you have so signally failed to answer any query today?

Dr Wordsmith writes: Because I have the mother and father of all hangovers, and I shouldn't be here at all, I should be in the saloon bar of the Rat and Crossword, where I shall be in five minutes. If any reader cares to consult me there and buy me a hair of the dog...

Dr Wordsmith will be back again soon, so keep those queries rolling in!

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power