Readers succinctly define a word of our times

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

READERS asked to define Majorism in not more than 20 words are managing to do so in fewer than half a dozen, writes David Lister.

Succinct definitions include 'Any ism to get a majority' from Frank Johnson of Coventry; 'overstated underachievement', from Lyn Patmore of Fulham; and 'grey flannel', from Rory Stuart of Cheltenham. Godfrey Howard, author of The Good English Guide, claims Majorism is an 'invalid media term, for 'ism' suggests well-defined ideas, yet defining Majorism is like trying to sculpt a jelly'.

Undeterred, Michael Macdonald-Cooper from Kirriemuir in Tayside, Scotland, gives an agricultural usage: 'Theory or practice of one who picks up broken reeds after a thatcher has finished work (Lat. major, used ironically).'

Majorism is to feature in the New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary next month as 'the political and economic policies of the British Conservative politician John Major (b. 1943) who became Prime Minister in 1990'.

A reader from Westbury on Severn in Gloucestershire says Majorism is 'Thatcherism screened by a village cricket pitch. For constitution, dissent or social chapter the heavy roller lurks'. This offering is from John Major, who stresses, somewhat needlessly, that he is not that one.

Readers are invited to devise a better definition of 'Majorism ' than the Oxford dictionary has offered. The best answer, in no more than 20 words, will win a weekend for two in Maastricht. Entries may be sent on a postcard or by fax; they should be marked 'MAJORISM'. Postcards to The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB. Faxes to 071-956 1435. Entries should reach us arrive by 1 September.