For many years my most hated word in the English language was ‘moratorium’. ‘You utter wanker!’ I used to think, every time I caught someone using it. It seemed so unnecessary; so show-off-y; and also so mystifying. Then one day I looked it up in the dictionary and realised how jolly indispensable it in fact was. I started employing ‘moratorium’ in my sentences quite freely and naturally. ‘Moratorium’ came off my most hated list, to be replaced by words like ‘gable’, ‘reredos’ and ‘architrave’.
What’s annoying about those words, I find, is that you’ve been faking an understanding of them for so many years that it’s more than your pride’s worth to look them up. Go on, though, draw me a gable. If you can, I’m impressed. I certainly couldn’t have done until I read Harry Mount’s marvellous A Lust for Window Sills.
This book is going to do for architectural history what Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots and Leaves did for punctuation, George Chamier’s When It Happened: The Little Book of British History did for dates, and Mount’s own Amo, Amas, Amat … and All That: How to Become a Latin Lover did