I have a soft spot for Bonnie Scotland, and not only because I was a lecturer on the MSc. course in Applied Linguistics in Buccleuch Place at Edinburgh University for a while in the 1980s.

The source of the English word virtue is Latin virtus derived from vir ’man’, the source also of English virago (‘manlike woman’) and ‘virile’, and so etymologically it denoted ‘manliness’.

Al-Masih ad-Dajjal, the ‘false Messiah’ in Islamic eschatology, corresponding to the ‘Anti-Christ’ in Christianity, is a false Prophet and impostor who, according to tradition, will seek to impersonate Jesus shortly before he returns to earth in the ‘last days’ at the end of time.

The current ‘woke’ insistence on the erasure of what is judged to be beyond the pale in history is often associated with radical ‘cancel culture’ and its very concrete expression in the removal of statues, especially of those with reprehensible historical connections to slavery such as Christopher Columbus and Edward Colston.

In his entry for the word liberation in Keywords, his seminal inquiry into the changing meanings of 131 keywords in English, Raymond Williams notes the parallel development in English from words derived from Latin liber and Teutonic freo (the source of freedom).

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus from 1992, famed for selling 15 million, and Allan and Barbara Pease’s Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps from 2001, which only sold 4 million copies but was translated into thirty-three languages. 

I have long been very interested in my own family history, following in the footsteps of my father who was a keen amateur genealogist.

The word artificial, like many other words, is a mixed bag, best conceived of as a semantic continuum encompassing positive, neutral and negative connotations.

I need to begin with a confession. I approach music not as a disengaged academic or critical exercise but from an experiential perspective as a keen amateur pianist, music lover and unashamed advocate of the power of music to move, inspire and heal the soul.

When I was studying history at ‘A’ level in 1964, our syllabus identified 1492 as the year in which ‘Modern History’ began, the year that Columbus ‘discovered’ the ‘New World’. I was not told that it was also the year in which Columbus, in his relentless search for gold and slaves, instituted shockingly cruel and genocidal policies in the Caribbean islands he had ‘discovered’, including the rapid decimation of the populations of indigenous Arawak Indians.