Dear stalking

August 8, 1997

There seems to be rather more in a name than meets the eye - at least where Sir Ron is concerned. Diana Laurillard, on his main committee for the past year, confesses her 13-year-old daughter has only just realised Dearing is a person and not a verb. She thought "to dear" meant to think very hard about things or to mull things over. And New Forest origins have given Bernard Naylor, University of Southampton librarian, a rather different idea.

There, he insists, "a dearing" is a clump of trees into which you drive a timid group of creatures with a view to managing them better. So far, so suggestive. But for speakers of Middle English the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary says "to dear" meant "to make dear or expensive; raise the price of".

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