Words: archer, n.

A CURIOUSLY underplayed aspect of Jeffrey Archer's libel case is that he did not settle matters for once and all by volunteering to remove his shirt and display his back - spotty or otherwise - to the public gaze. It has certainly not been photographed since.

It would not have been surprising if spots or moles lurked there. Bear with me. Via Old French, from the Latin arcus for bow - as is arc - archer entered the language in the 13th century and 300 years later was noted as a sign of the Zodiac, Sagittarius, into which the sun moved just as Lord Archer's latest troubles emerged. Even more curious is that the archer is a fish in Java: able to waylay insects with a shot of water, it is "of a yellowish colour, marked in the back with five brown spots".

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