Words: gormless, adj.

DISCRETION VEILS the occasion when an utterance was deemed gormless but, at the same time, there came to mind puzzlement about the gorm that is apparently lacking.

Virgin Mary's `diary' attacked

THE REV David Wilbourne seemed to anticipate a panning for his colourfully modern story of the Virgin Mary. He secured the backing of heavyweights including the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Liverpool before writing A Virgin's Diary - a mix of the New Testament and Bridget Jones - which is due to be published next month.

Words: spinster, n.

THE Brighton Evening Argus described a murdered woman in Worthing as a spinster. It must use the Collins dictionary, which lets it pass without warning. The Concise Oxford calls it "chiefly derogatory" and Encarta an "offensive term".

Words: salt, adj.

THE GOVERNMENT decree on salt could be more subtle. If palate were on the national curriculum, more would abandon the magnesium-tainted stuff and crumble varieties of sea salt.

Comment: Roll on the new role models

Everywhere you looked there were beautiful women with glacial smiles and guns

Book review: Frissons, foursomes and falling in love

A Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank Viking pounds 9.99

Diary of a taciturn novelist

THE JOURNALS OF GEORGE ELIOT EDITED BY MARGARET HARRIS AND JUDITH JOHNSTON CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS, pounds 55
A striking wooden sculpture of the central figure in a local story of the 17th century - marriage to Meg was offered as an alternative to the gallows for Willie Scott who had attempted to steal cattle.

Scotland's ugliest woman honoured

She was the Bridget Jones of her day. Desperate to wed, Muckle Mou'd Meg, heroine of a famous Scottish ballad, could find no takers.

Welcome to the locker room

TONY PARSONS asked some (male) friends around for a chat about - you guessed it - women. Are you ready for The Truth?

Books: All hail a new literary genre! And guess what, it's strangely familiar

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BOOKS: BEST-SELLERS CHARTS

Hardbacks

Q: Do you have `Bridget Jones's Diary'? A: No. Can you come back in six months?

MODERN AND popular fiction has borne the brunt of budget cuts to book funds for public libraries, a survey by The Independent has revealed.

Books: Fear and loathing from Newmarket to Las Vegas

Twelve Grand by Jonathan Rendall Yellow Jersey Press, pounds 10, 250pp; Is it a novel? Is it a memoir? Laura Thompson hedges her bets but appreciates some good value from this wayward punter's odyssey

Poor Di - vanquished again by a remorseless Camilla

YESTERDAY I brought you the results of my research into the favourite boys' names of 1998 (based on the frequency of their appearance in the year's news headlines), and today we come to the most popular girls' names for the same period.

Letter: Men as scapegoats

Sir: So, premature spinsterhood afflicts women east of Berlin too, does it? ("Bridget Jones goes to Budapest", 24 November). Having Adam LeBor relay the news doesn't make the analysis any less facile. Once again, men are the problem sex, their fragile egos threatened by independent- minded women. But at least it diverts Bridget's attention from her own inadequacies.
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