The Top 10: Compulsory Adjectives

·1-min read
The Pope, who is only one kind of Catholic  (Reuters)
The Pope, who is only one kind of Catholic (Reuters)

This list was suggested by Philip Downer, who had just read an obituary of Eric Gordon, which confirmed that, if you need to specify what kind of Marxist someone is or was, the answer, wherever possible, is “unreconstructed”.

1. Devout (Catholic). Nominated by Denis Keefe and Alan Conn.

2. Staunch (Protestant). Thanks to Teresa Pearce and Alan Conn.

3. Militant (atheist). Thanks to A.

4. Keynote (speech). From Teresa Pearce again.

5. Toxic (masculinity). Nominated by Paul T Horgan.

6. Influential (1922 Committee). Thanks to Ed Lennox.

7. Overall (majority). “This redundancy just won’t die,” said Colin Jamieson. “A party either has a majority or it hasn’t.”

8. Filthy (rich). Simon Gillon added that if you need to qualify “poor” it must be “dirt”.

9. Damning (indictment). Thanks to Andrew Naughtie.

10. Royal (Highness). Very good, Philip Nalpanis.

Alan Jones, an admirer of my colleague Simon Calder, nominated his description of Liechtenstein as “plucky” every time he lists Schengen countries.

I thought hypocrisy had to be shameless or breathtaking these days, but apparently rank is more popular. In the old days, of course, all hussies were shameless, as Graeme Preston pointed out, but not for some time.

This list is similar to, but not the same as, the Top 10 words used only with one other word (serried, batten, squib, bated, scot, knell, halcyon and so on).

Next week: False details of real events, such as David Mellor’s Chelsea shirt in his affair with Antonia de Sancha.

Coming soon: Bass guitarists.

Your suggestions please, and ideas for future Top 10s, to me on Twitter, or by email to

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