Words; Merkin, n.

ONE OF life's mysteries, despite the global village, is that many American books do not appear in Britain. A striking absence is Dreaming of Hitler by Daphne Merkin, one of the movie critics at the New Yorker.

Her book of essays ("intellect as art form, insight as drama, and original thinking as great entertainment", said Woody Allen) ranges from a meditation on the Holocaust to a piece about the quest to find a man to spank her satisfactorily.

This is, then, a case in which the author's name is fitting, as in Restoration comedy, for it brings to mind a word overlooked by Johnson's Dictionary but in use before and since. Others of us would balk at mentioning it, but the tenor of Ms Merkin's book suggests that she would happily admit to any need for a pubic wig.