Ian McMillan held forth, quite rightly, on the abuse of the word absolutely in Saturday's Guardian. I'm as guilty as any of the use of this as a modish substitute for the simple word 'yes'. However I think he is wrong to claim this as a recent phenomenon. When I was at university in the mid-seventies, a group of well-born hippies who marched around campus in gumboots and ethnic finery, known to us as the wretched of the earth, appropriated the word into their argot, uttering it in every sentence with a stoned lengthening of the third syllable. It was their catch phrase. And later, in the eighties, one would hear it from the lips of estate agents and financial advisors, and other shock-troops of the Thatcherite counter-revolution.