One of the characteristics of English usage guides is that they often include tongue-in-cheek remarks, actual jokes or just plain witticisms. As the Fowler brothers wrote, when they were working on The King’s English, “we try to throw in a little elegant flippancy here & there” to alleviate the dryness of the topic (Jenny McMorris, 2001, The Warden of English, OUP, p. 59).
The anonymous author of one of the earliest American usage guides, Five Hundred Mistakes of Daily Occurrence in Speaking, Pronouncing, and Writing the English Language, Corrected (New York, 1856), clearly thought so too, and there are quite a few witticisms in the book, as well as jokes.
The author must have delighted in them, but do we still think them funny today? To find out, we’d like you to tell us by filling in the poll below, and to let us know which of the items you like best (one choice only!). Doing the poll requires a bit of reading, but may lead to a very pleasurable five minutes or so.
And if you wish to leave a reply, comments will be very welcome too.