15 JULY 1978, Page 18

Wounding words

Sir: As a newspaper editor and book publisher for over fifty years and therefore by definition a practitioner in the arts of linguistical language and philology, I feel the time has come to register a sturdy protest against those writers in the media who delight in making gratuitously offensive and wounding comments about people they happen to be describing.

It was once the prerogative of the gossip hacks to indulge in these adjectival obscenities but now, alas, the tendency seems to have infected the more reputable organs of the press. Last week, for instance, your own contributor, who rejoices in the stupidly exotic pseudonym (see what I mean?) of Taki, chose to label the tennis star Tom Okker as a 'knock-kneed Dutchman', a verbal infelicity as unmannerly as it is untrue. Most people would consider Okker's physical attributes quite exceptional in a sport whose virtuosi are renowned for their puissance rather than their pulchritude.

One could quote further examples ad nauseam. Recently an odious little scribbler (see what I mean?) in a popular Sunday book page dismissed a new work by a durable novelist as 'a disaster' and then excoriated a well-reviewed autobiography as 'arrogant waffle', all of which is bitchy abuse not literary criticism.

I often wonder what these smarty-pants whiz-kids are trying to achieve in pandering to the grosser tastes of their readers, other than exposing the paucity of their own vocabulary and the exiguity of their imaginations.

I sometimes think the office charlady could make a better job of it!

Mark Goulden 48 Lowndes Square London SW1