Diary: By 'eck, Ginny drops her aitches

An heritage secretary uses a h-word. Is Virginia Bottomley (below) living up to the highest precepts of her cabinet post and safeguarding our linguistic heritage, or is she starting an academic controversy?

Opening the Alton Towers Hotel this week, Mrs Bottomley, who has tourism in her portfolio, said: "Now Alton Towers is the first theme park in the UK to build an hotel."

It would seem that she is the only member of the Cabinet to use "an" before an h-word; and it could, with luck, become an idiosyncrasy to rival the Prime Minister's disdain for the boring word "want" when it sounds so much more individualistic as "wunt''.

The Chambers Guide to Grammar and Usage: "the h-less (or virtually h- less) pronunciation, while not common and now rather old fashioned, is not wrong.... The simple rule is to make the choice between a and an match your own pronunciation of such h-words."

Nicholas Gisborne, English language adviser to the faculty of English at the University of Cambridge, says his own father uses the phrase an hotel, but he would not expect anyone under 40 to be familiar with it. "It is entirely optional but an hotel is stylistically marked as being more formal and has a use restricted to the older generation," he says. A tricky one for Mrs Bottomley: delight the campaigners for traditional English but risk bewildering the younger voter.

When fact is stranger than pulp fiction

My story yesterday of Italy allowing young children to see the violent movie Pulp Fiction because they regard it as a cautionary tale has an echo on these shores.

The indefatigable charmer, Michael Winner (he of the seduction technique "Come on, let's get a move on") also believes violent movies serve a social purpose. Of his Death Wish films, which have shown women being violently attacked, he says: "It doesn't mean you're saying `Go out and attack women.' You're saying: `This is awful, so protect yourself.' "

All these well-meaning moralists making cautionary tale movies, and we never realised.

A brush-off for the Turner Prize?

I am sorry to learn that Waldemar Januszczak, Channel 4's commissioning editor for music and arts, is not having his contract renewed by Stuart Cosgrove, the new controller of arts and entertainment, following an outbreak of artistic differences between the two men. The loss of Januszczak will be mourned in the Tate Gallery, which has been able to rely on him to ensure not only Channel 4's sponsorship of the Turner Prize, but abrasive defences of the avant-garde artists involved (and even more abrasive attacks on their detractors) in his other role as a newspaper art critic. It will be interesting to see whether Channel 4's sponsorship of the prize survives Januszczak's departure; and if it does, whether the broadcasters will improve on last year's coverage -which managed to finish just before the announcement of the winner: a piece of avant-garde performance art in its own right.

Master of suspense gets into real estate

Jose Macicior, a Spanish-born antiques dealer, has found a way of selling his flat in the Cromwell Road, west London, without having to pay a percentage to an estate agent. Just as he was about to put the flat on the market, a Japanese film company informed him that it was once owned by the film director, Alfred Hitchcock (above). Mr Macicior, who had hitherto been unaware of this, has enterprisingly invited film magazines to come and write about the pounds 105,000 flat, whose post-Hitchcock discovery price might be a little higher, and put the owner's name and phone number in their articles. No estate agent has been employed. So here we go. Yes, it has a rear window; with five flights of stairs, prospective buyers might suffer from vertigo; there is no shortage of bird life in the area; oh and watch yourself in the shower.

Eagle Eye

Sarah sells her soul for a hat collection

It's long been a mystery why fashion houses choose only vacuous supermodels to display their collections and ignore the far more lithe and sensuous bodies of leading dancers. The Royal Ballet, with stars such as Sylvie Guillem and Darcey Bussell, could earn a pretty penny on the side by hiring out their dancers. I'm pleased to see that the company's rising star Sarah Wildor is already spreading her sartorial wings. Designers at Bermona saw her dance in Manon, and are using her to launch a new collection of extravagant hat creations.

Bermona's managing director, Janis Anderson, uses language as extravagant as her hats when she says of Wildor: "She has the most wonderful eyes, which brings to mind the saying that they are the windows of the soul, but there is also a serenity and calmness about her which is quite breathtaking." Quite. The windows of the soul are somewhere underneath that hat.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
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.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk