We're having a bit of a scandal in Britain at the moment.
There's a lot of information still to emerge, but what is clear is that some of our gentlemen of the press are now ex-gentlemen, having firstly illegally hacked voice-mail messages, and secondly given money to police officers in return for information.
Naturally, those sections of the press untainted by the scandal are whipping themselves into a frenzy, with some delightful linguistic results. Twice over the last day or so I've come across baffling ferret references, as in John Whittingdale has reversed his ferret.
Even the omniscient Google has no mention of anyone reversing their ferret before the 12 July 2011, so it really is very new.
But what does it mean?
Well, thanks to wikipedia I now have some idea. When Kelvin MacKenzie was editor of The Sun newspaper he claimed that the job of a journalist when faced with public figures was to stick ferrets up their trousers - that is, to make them feel threatened.*
However, if it became clear that The Sun's bullying was unpopular with its readers, Mr MacKenzie would erupt from his office shouting 'Reverse ferret!'
I must say this new extension of the phrase into to reverse one's ferret is rather lovely. The meaning has changed from the original reverse ferret, though: to reverse one's ferret now seems to mean merely to retract an earlier statement.
This is, happily, even more useful, and I wish to reverse one's ferret a long life.
Oh, but wouldn't it be nice if people making up such expressions took a moment to make it clear what on earth they were talking about?
Word To Use Today: journalist. This word is from the Old French word meaning daily, and before that from the Latin word diurnālis, from diēs, which means day.
Curious, as so many of them work into the night, but there you go.
*(There is a Northern English sport of ferret legging, where contestants compete to see who can cope with having a ferret introduced into their sealed trousers for the longest period of time.
No, really, all you readers from saner climes, there IS!)