Words: kilter, n.

"THINGS ARE a bit out of kilter right now." The phrase has often sprung to my lips. Sufficient to note that this is composed amid the throes of moving house (all those dictionaries, 80 boxes of books).

The noun is invariably used in this form, as a negative rather than the good order which it denotes. Sometimes spelt kelter, its origins are obscure, apparently unconnected with the verb for hitching up a skirt. It often meant a frame, or the mechanism of a gun, and is familiar across Britain and in America, where James Russell Lowell lamented in 1883: "I must rest awhile. My brain is out of kilter."

Over here, we are made of sterner stuff: the weekend should have one back in action, that is to say in true kilter.