My philosophy is to get your kit off - for operational reasons of course

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From time to time I like to bring you a round-up of new words or new usages in current English, a kind of part-work glossary, and I think it is time to offer a few more examples of the way in which English is changing as we move towards the millennium.

Absolutely: A mild form of "yes". Docudrama: A kind of television programme about a famous person, of whom there is so little film footage available that an actor has to be hired to impersonate him.

Editor: 1) In television and film, a very minor person whose job it is to make sure that all the pictures sort of fit together. 2) In radio, a very important person who controls The Archers. 3) In the press, a very very very important person who does exactly what the proprietor wishes.

Epic: An adjective meaning, filmed in several different countries at enormous expense

Icon: 1) A small drawing on a computer screen 2) Any person whose great days are over but who is still admired by any other person, as in "Shirley Bassey is a gay icon", "Vidal Sassoon is a hairdressing icon", "The Queen is a royal icon", etc.

Iconic: Said of a comedy show which is slightly different from its predecessors.

Irish: Name given to new pubs with shiny wooden facades in Rome, Tel Aviv, Beirut, Stockholm, etc.

Islam: A kind of religion whose adherents believe that God listens to them five times a day.

Kit: Trendy new term for clothes, as in "Get your kit off". Kit and the Widow: Presumably, widow's weeds.

Literature: This used to mean a whole collection of great novels, poems, plays, etc, but now it means a small pile of brochures, as in "Shall I send you some literature on that?"

Mic: A new abbreviation for "microphone". It is starting to take over from "mike", as in "Open Mic contest". Nobody quite knows what has caused this development, as "mike" was a perfectly good abbreviation and did at least look like the way it was said, which "mic" doesn't. Maybe it has come about because "mic" is the written abbreviation on tape recorders.

Millennium: AD 2000 is said to be the millennium, because it is the year that marks the end of the 20th century. However, the original meaning of "millennium", was 1,000 years, so whatever we are celebrating must be something that happened 1,000 years ago. However, nothing happened in AD 1000. The only thing that anyone really seems to want to celebrate is the birth of Christ, which was 2,000 years ago. So millennium must now mean "a period of two thousand years".

Mobile: This used to be a kind of revolving sculpture that dangled from the ceiling, but is now just a toy telephone.

Monitor: A verb meaning, To ignore, to do nothing about, to treat with apathy, as in "We are monitoring the situation on a 24-hour basis".

Operational: Unfathomable, unknowable, mystic, awesome, as in the announcement: "We are sorry for the late running of this train. This is due to operational reasons."

Oxymoron: Sudden fashionable alternative for "contradiction in terms". Philosophy: The thinking behind a football manager's actions. Eg, "My philosophy is to win matches by beating the other side, but I think it's important to entertain as well, and also to buy a foreign footballer with a funny name whom the home crowd can become fond of".

Power: This is the new term which has replaced "On/Off" on machines.

Quote: This is quite different from a quotation. A quotation is something witty or stylish which has been repeated so often it has gone into the language. A quote is a brief soundbite from someone famous which is picked up by a researcher and handed to an interview for discussion, as when Ned Sherrin says to a visiting actor: "I rather liked your quote the other day when you said that playing Hamlet was like trying to remember the sort of person you were 10 years ago", and the actor can't remember having said it and doesn't have the faintest what it means, but has to discuss it anyway, because it's a "quote".

Scientist: One who can explain how life began 10 million years ago but has no idea how BSE began 10 years ago.

Something: A curious expression which used to be a swear word ( as in "You something something!" ) but is now a number (as in "Thirty-something" or "Forty-something").

Tribute: An obituary on television.

(To be continued.)

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