11 OCTOBER 2003, Page 40

Otiose equinity

From James Blount Sir: Dot Wordsworth's lament for the decay of the default meaning of words (Mind your language, 27 September) brought to mind an especially ugly example.

'Riding', unless specified as `joy-', 'camel-', or 'bareback-riding', has the clear default meaning of sitting on a saddle on a horse. It is therefore otiose to talk about 'horse-riding' in English; even odder and less attractive is the urge to be specific about the bit of the horse that is ridden, as in 'horseback-riding', as if a normal equestrian straddled the horse's head or tail.

James Blount

Baghdad, Iraq