Words: e-word, n.

THE BELATED British publication this month by Faber of The F-Word has attracted attention, but nobody has remarked that much of it openly derives from the magisterial Random House Dictionary of American Slang by Jonathan Lighter which is not published in Britain and whose third volume - O-Z - is eagerly awaited for its endless evidence of a demotic imagination which goes way beyond obvious curses.

In California, a true sign of our times comes with the teenager who complained to a teacher that she had been called by the "e-word". Puzzled, the teacher wondered what this could mean. In fact, it was "eediot" - which suggests that the pupil's spelling comes from listening to Manuel's hesitant repetition of an insult from Basil Fawlty.