Latest Issue

Leith on life: A bit of a wally

Our love lives and our public lives alike are deeply shaped by the fear of embarrassment

By Sam Leith   May 2014

How much I learned about mutual unintelligibility from my French exchange all those years ago! Claire was her name: a stout and serious girl from the Loire Valley. We once spent a whole afternoon trying to establish what she did in her leisure time.

“I am scoot,” she had announced. After establishing that she did not mean that she rode, for instance, a scooter, and having been positively baffled by her complicated mime for what she actually meant by “scoot” (it was clearly a noun) we asked her to try it in French. “Je suis scoot,” she said.

I can’t…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect