I’m well used, when tackling the works of Robert Macfarlane and Will Self, to ensure I’m fully armed with a dictionary, for they are both practised logophiles. But it’s not something I’m used to when tackling the less rarefied climes of a newspaper’s business section.
Last week, I was stopped in my tracks by the following: “Shopping centre owners once bloviated that the death of department stores could be managed with clever use of space for coffee shops and nails bars.” Well, bloviate had me scrabbling for my dictionary. Absolutely no use whatsoever. So thanks heavens for the internet. It means “to talk at length, especially in an inflated or empty way”. It was further defined by the US president Warren G Harding, as “the art of speaking for as long as the occasion warrants and saying nothing”.
A wonderful word that has seemingly fallen by the wayside and yet it must be resurrected, especially in these troubled times when we are assailed on all sides by experts and politicians, for whom bloviating, if there is such a word, is clearly second nature.
It comes as no surprise that the Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year survey can’t actually settle on a word of the year. There are so many contenders, after all. But among its findings there is some welcome news: the use of Brexit has fallen by 80% in the past year and a new word has been added to the lexicon – anthropause, “the global slowdown of travel and other human activity and the subsequent welcome consequences, such as a decrease in light and noise pollution”.
Finally, another newspaper report referred to a “rope access specialist”. I think in the old days that meant a climber.
• Jonathan Bouquet is an Observer columnist