4 JUNE 1971, Page 26

Solecist

Sir: In his biography of Asquith, on p. 203. Roy Jenkins writes:

. Asquith retired to Cannes, forgetting that he had an engage- ment to dine . . . at Windsor. This solecism led both to the King's displeasure and to sonic publicity Although the use of the word 'solecism', in this context. baffled me, i am aware that the Oxford English Dictionary quotes an illus- tration, going back some ninety years. or so. Sir Denis Brogan concurs that it is a linguistic sin— in accordance with its use in French—and not a social failure.

I have suggested to Mr Roy Jenkins. in a note complimenting him on the felicity of his phrase about the late Kaiser being the most un-British grandson of a most British grandmother, that the use he made of 'solecism', as quoted above, must be a sort of eccen- tricity. not uncommon, among cer- tian Balliol men, the late Sir Ha. rold Nicolson (a regular contributor to your columns and delightful to read, for many years) having been a postmaster for such Vouvailles • Perhaps some of your readers could throw light on more up-to'. date applications and usage?

• Peter Berliner 110 Guilford Street, BloomsburY, London wcl