WORDS FOR THE WEEKEND

Where did Leonardo da Vinci come from? For an answer, you can bank on Bill Hartston

"Are banks open on a bank holiday?" I innocently asked my wife once. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I realised that I had committed a Manly Daily. The term is used to describe a question of such blatant inanity that it answers itself. Not just any old blindingly stupid question, such as "How are the English cricket team doing?" but one in which the answer is shouted out in the formulation of the question itself.

The expression dates back to a holiday I spent in Australia several years ago. A friend of mine had been running an event in Manly, a suburb of Sydney, and was on the phone to the local paper. On hearing that a piece would appear in their next issue, my friend asked: "How often does the Manly Daily come out?"

Perhaps the clearest example of the genre, however, was uttered in the office of this very newspaper, when I heard one journalist ask our then transport correspondent, Christian Wolmar, "Are you Jewish, Christian?" (And while on the subject of Mr Christian, I must confess to having been flummoxed for some time when I was asked the name of the ship in Mutiny on the Bounty.)

A friend once admitted to having the following conversation with a librarian:

"Do you have The Diary of Anne Frank?"

"Do you know the name of the author?"

"Sorry, no."

The reason Manly Dailys are so easily perpetrated is that in every case one neglects the primary meaning of a word because it has become embedded in a larger phrase.

A bank holiday is no longer primarily a day on which banks are closed; it's our holiday, not theirs, and might as well be a bang collie day for all we care; The Diary of Anne Frank is a book and film, not Anne Frank's diary; and Daily is just another word for a newspaper, like Gazette or News.

If you are in the habit of asking people what day of the week Good Friday falls on this year, or what time the Ten O'clock News is on (it's about five past ten if there's football before it - do the Trades Descriptions people know about this?), or what town Leonardo da Vinci came from, then you might like to consider becoming a physician. An Oxford classics student I knew once went to his doctor and complained of pain between his ribs. "Ah," said the doctor, "you've got intracostal neuralgia."

"That's what I said," replied the classicist, sounding most unimpressed.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

    £17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

    Day In a Page

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'