Words: daft, adj.

Click to follow
THERE IS no greater piffle than that uttered by Coca-Cola's new "chief executive", Douglas Daft. People are refusing to pay more for it. Even so, he is optimistic, for "we build a complex imagery around the product." Do his ad men peruse John Donne and Wallace Stevens?

Be Daft's sugary, borborygmic brew as it may, his surname is not as daft as all that - and has a seasonal hue. It existed in Old English, to mean gentle or meek, from a Gothic root which later split not only into that sense (which mutated into the sense inoffensive, then irrational) but also neat or apt: hence deft.

As for the daft days, this is an 18th-century phrase for the Christmas season, title of a poem by the convivial, tragic Robert Fergusson, dead at 24 in 1774.