Arts and Entertainment

The Australian author of this lively collection of essays about language is an amiable guide to his subject. "Amiable" is, however, a stiff adjective to use when describing Julian Burnside, QC, who praises HW Fowler, author of A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1926), and Samuel Johnson for allowing their personalities to colour their writings about words. He mocks philologists for their dryness, dismisses "cherished superstitions" that remain popular with conservative querulists and describes an attempt to ban the use of "mate" from the Australian parliament in appropriately matey style.

David Cameron: Conservatism is about seeking the common ground

From a speech given at the Centre for Policy Studies in London, by the Conservative MP

Staying Afloat: `The movie turns out to be an all-singin', all- dancin' celebration of sexism and racism'

WE ARE wedged, Simpsons-style, on the sofa, for the inaugural run of our new DVD player. The replacement of our knackered video with this shiny new piece of kit is welcomed by the children as a hopeful sign that we, as a household, are entering the age of new technology ("I expect we'll be getting a PlayStation soon," says Con, encouragingly.)

There really isn't any harm in causing offence - just ask Mel Brooks

You cannot be a champion of free speech when you like what's being spoken and a gagger of it when you don't

Matthew Norman's Media Diary

Crosby, Stills & Nash, Fleet Pavilion, Boston, USA

Rolling back the years

Carmen, Coliseum, London

Letter: Ladies at the Garrick

Sir: Mo Mowlam's defiant publicity stunt of eating at the Garrick Club in order to give comfort to its proprietors will not only have offended women ("New Labour ladies lunch at a bastion of male chauvinism", 17 December). Many men are equally repelled by such survivals of Old Misogyny. Of course there is a libertarian issue here - the dismal old buffers must be allowed to pursue their fetishes in private - but there is no need for the rest of us, male or female, to feel compelled to endorse it. Will the next "New Labour" visit be to a whites-only drinking club?

Venezuela votes on president's reforms

HUGO CHAVEZ, the Venezuelan President, triumphed at the polls and secured his position for up to 12 more years when the nation approved his new constitution, with 71.2 per cent voting in favour of his reforms.

More liberal with promises than in policy

Like writers, governments tend to be remembered for few achievements - and not always those for which they thought they would be remembered. John Major promised little and delivered less: the National Lottery. Margaret Thatcher tamed the trade unions and inaugurated privatisation, which came about largely by accident. Harold Wilson promised a technological revolution that never happened but gave us the Open University instead.

Black Panthers and Zapatistas pool guerrilla tips in jungle convention

GUERRILLA GROUPS from across America will today descend on an Amazonian jungle town to swap tips on winning the revolutionary struggle.

World revolutionaries gather for their summit

GUERRILLA GROUPS from across the Americas will today descend on an Amazonian jungle town to swap tips on winning the revolutionary struggle. Left-wing terrorist groups are to join with street demonstrators fresh from battle in Seattle, in a corporate- style convention to discuss the path to power.

Hot gospel of a brand missionary

Roger Trapp talks to the `born again' businessman who came back from Death

Why sexual passion is failing us between the covers

`Passion requires time, energy and, perhaps, a secluded life in a Yorkshire parsonage'
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Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
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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
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'