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Delia becomes common noun

Millionaire cookery writer Delia Smith has been uniquely honoured – she has become a catchphrase.

While hundreds of A-list celebrities are known by one name only, or a nickname, or simply by their first or second name – Pele, Madonna, Maradona, Prince, Sting, Elvis, Cher, Oprah – few have made it into the dictionary as a common noun.

Now Delia – the British cook who has sold over 12 million books – has become so inseparable a part of British life that her name has broken the bounds of simple identity and is listed in the new Collins English Dictionary as a catchphrase.

The phrases ‘doing a delia’ or ‘a delia dish’ have entered the language to describe a particular style of simple yet quality cooking. The noun has other uses. Female gardening guru Charlie Dimmock was described as ‘the delia of gardening’ – a tribute to her peculiarly English ability to be warm and approachable at the same time as giving the distinct impression of being unwilling to stand any nonsense, of any sort.

The Collins dictionary is compiled from a database of 418m words. Delia was one of the most frequent namechecks sent in to the editor, who recorded over 700 cookery-related uses of the word.

Written by Adam Lechmere3 December 2001

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