It is ironic, in an article that objects to changes in language (How language is literally losing its meaning, 15 August), that John Sutherland talks about “communication – verbal and written”, thus losing an important distinction between oral and verbal, which used to mean “in words” in whatever form. We can’t stop language changing, and many changes don’t make much difference or enhance it, but we sometimes lose value, as in this case or when disinterested is used instead of uninterested.Martin WrightSale, Greater Manchester• John Sutherland bemoans the peeves one encounters in modern communication – verbal and written; it was ever thus. My old boss, despite the dictionary, felt that verbal should limit itself to words in general, not to spoken as opposed to written. He would have considered verbal sex a bit off the boil.Arthur NewtonStockport, Greater Manchester• It’s all very well complaining about modern usage, but language has no meaning other than what we agree it means. Colloquial usages are almost always ugly when they first appear, and most of them don’t last. Some words even reverse their meaning, so I could describe John Sutherland as a nice man, as long as I don’t mean it in …read more

Via: The Guardian | Books