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

White City Blue by Tim Lott Viking pounds 15.99

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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In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible