Words: tosh, v., n. and adj.

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SALMAN RUSHDIE depicts the pop singer as a mythical figure; David Huggins is less wide-eyed: his new novel, Luxury Amnesia, shows that most end up as a painter and decorator. "What? Toshing people's houses?" asks the hapless hero's ex-girlfriend.

Not in the OED, this Seventies word for decorating comes from the dialect toshy: muddy, as in toshers who scavenge sewers for valuables; and, paradoxically enough, perhaps an echo of an 18th-century Scottish word to mean neat, clean. Huggins's novel is not tosh (either from the muddy sense or bosh - Turkish for empty), but the plot, preoccupied with shifting a corpse, belies an eye for words. Modestly, the jacket overlooks his winning the prestigious Bad Sex Prize. He could do so again.