I would like to share my excitement about my most recent book purchase. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s related to the HUGE database of usage guides and usage problems – albeit tangentially. The book is Het Handboek Stijl, which is the current standard style guide to written Dutch. The guide is co-authored by Peter Burger and Jaap de Jong – who both work here at Leiden University.
I always feel secretly cool about author spottings – even though they happen pretty much daily in the university setting. It still makes me happy. I even author spotted Steven Pinker a few weeks ago at the Niko Tinbergen lecture series. (And, judging by my mention of said spotting, I’m apparently still feeling secretly cool about it.)
But back to my neat new book:
Professor Jaap de Jong – in addition to being founder of the study Journalism and New Media here at Leiden – is also a co-editor of the popular Dutch language journal Genootschap Onze Taal and an expert on the theory of rhetoric among other things. During his oration a few years ago, De Jong also cited the great professor of the history of rhetoric Antoine Braet as an important influence. With this in mind, I was interested in the extent to which the style advice provided in Het Handboek Stijl would reflect these influences. Perhaps the pet peeves of Onze Taal readers have found their way into the advice? Or maybe the style tips tend toward the oratory? I’m still investigating these questions and others with my shiny new book – so perhaps I’ll write again with some answers at a later date.
Meanwhile, forays into the relationships between the lives and work of authors and the type of advice they provide on style and usage issues are fun and entertaining to undertake. They are also useful and relevant to studies such as the ones being conducted in the context of this project. So, to my list of covert hobbies, I think I can officially add ‘usage-advice tracing’ and ‘influence searching’. With hobbies like these on the loose, traditional pastimes better watch their backs.
I’m looking at you, cross stitching.