If you thought that usage problems only occur in usage guides, you’re in for a big surprise: they are also discussed in a different genre altogether – etiquette books. This discovery was made by Paul Nance, one of the readers of our blog, and he wrote about it in a short piece with lovely illustrations which we included in the above section called Features.
In his research on usage problems and etiquette books Paul also came across Josephine Turck Baker (1873-1942), an American writer who made a career out of providing usage advice. Our own Viktorija Kostadinova gave a paper on this woman and her work, who is the earliest female writer of usage guides in the HUGE database, at the conference Margin(s) and Norm(s) in English Language(s) at the university of Aix-Marseille in April last year.
Josephine Turck Baker is not actually THE earliest woman to publish a usage guide: this was, as far as we know at the moment, Rosaline Masson, but we’ve been unable to find a copy of her book, Use and Abuse of English, published in Edinburgh in 1896. If you are able to help us, please get in touch!
Sorry, no illustrations this time, even though there is a lovely picture of Josephine Turck Baker online. You’ll find it if you google for her name. It is actually for sale, and though the asking price was recently reduced, we don’t have that kind of money in the project unfortunately.
Not specifically usage-related, but I recently learned of a 19thC writer on etiquette who kept female and male authors apart on the bookshelf – unless they were married, in which case their mutual proximity could be tolerated.