Words: salt, adj.

THE GOVERNMENT decree on salt could be more subtle. If palate were on the national curriculum, more would abandon the magnesium-tainted stuff and crumble varieties of sea salt.

The francophile classicist and movie scholar Peter Graham is author of Classic Cheese Cookery and of Mourjou - the thinking man's Peter Mayle. He always asks whether food "is salt enough for you?" This pleasingly antique form (salt is from Old English) survived until the 18th century, and is preserved in salt beef.

Salt beefcake is something relished by Bridget Jones's ilk. Salt to mean lecherous petered out in the 17th century (originally used of a bitch on heat). It is a slurring of assaut, from the French a saut, to leap. Hence a taste for salty humour.