News The home of the TV weatherman has been raided by police as part of an investigation into historic sexual abuse

Fred Talbot faces 9 charges of incident assault and one serious sexual assault

Between The Covers: 14/08/2011

Your weekly guide to what's really going on inside the world of books

The Reading List: Grammar

Non-fiction

New Finnish Grammar, By Diego Marani, trans. Judith Landry

The title is odd, the cover is grey and the author is a besuited Eurocrat. But beneath these unflamboyant exteriors lie a colourful story. It has taken 10 years, the dedication of a small UK publisher and a perfect-pitch translation to deliver Diego Marani's first novel in English. When it came out in Italian, reviewers called it a masterpiece and it won several prizes. Since then Marani has written five more novels and become a Euro-celebrity for inventing a mock language called "Europanto" – a tossed salad of every European language without rules or grammar.

Clavics by Geoffrey Hill

Discords and distractions

The Week in Radio: So-so grammar puts sensitive listeners in a spin

These are tough times for pedants like me. Like people with extra-sensitive skin, it takes only minuscule grammatical mistakes to make us flinch and squirm. There are some to whom a split infinitive is like biting on silver foil and others who spend their days shouting, dementedly, "fewer" at politicians who can't hear them. Almost daily, fresh horrors rise from the radio like the screech of chalk on a blackboard, and one of the most recent is "so". Why should so many interviewees begin their answers with this apparently incongruous word?

Amy Winehouse learns slang from goddaughter

Amy Winehouse's goddaughter has been teaching her street slang

John Reay

Your obituary of the artist John Reay (6 April) contained the following statement, writes Pamela Martindale: "His father Thomas Reay, a pet-supplies salesman, and mother, Rose, would not have supported him through college, always hoping to find him 'proper' jobs."

The Language Wars: a history of proper English, By Henry Hitchings

Wordsmith who's on the winning side

Teaching of Urdu has doubled in four years

The number of state secondary schools offering Urdu as a foreign language has almost doubled in the past four years, according to figures released today. According to a report by CILT, the national language learning centre, pupils at more than 10 per cent of schools study the subject – up from 6 per cent in 2007.

Evolving English: On top of the word

A fascinating new exhibition at the British Library shows how all attempts to standardise the English language have been resisted – and that's why it continues to flourish today, says Adrian Hamilton

GCSEs to punish poor spelling

For seven years, spelling, punctuation and grammar have been deemed less than essential in GCSE exams, but under rules set to be outlined in an education White Paper next week, pupils will lose as much as five cent of their marks in all subjects if they fall short with their written English.

Language erosion: You don't hear that often...

The discovery of a previously unknown language in the foothills of the Himalayas bucks a trend of extinction and decline, says Laura Spinney

Jane Austen could write – but her spelling was awful

Blots, crossings-out, messiness and bad grammar – Jane Austen's manuscripts were so messy that a pro-active editor must have been responsible for the polished prose of novels such as Emma and Persuasion.

Terence Blacker: How to be the perfect gentleman

These are confusing times for the English gentleman. Everything in his background has told him that manners are what help define him, but in this sharp-elbowed, aggressively egalitarian world, he has discovered that old-fashioned niceness is no longer quite enough.

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'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there