Of pedants, mavens, sticklers and …

only-snoopers! This is a term adopted by Sir Ernest Gowers in his discussion of the placement of only in Plain Words, another old chestnut in the usage guide tradition. The term reminds me of which-hunting, something pedants and other prescriptivists are renowned for. But only-snooping, which Gowers says “has become as popular a sport with some purists as split-infinitive-snooping was a generation ago” (he wrote this in 1948 by the way!), is new to me. (And you will find the meaning of snooping here.) But I don’t think it is very popular any more. Or is it?

(It is good to see that Rebecca Gowers, in her 4th edition of Plain Words, kept the term “only-snooping” in.)

(I’ve also just noticed that David Crystal, in Who Cares about English Usage, 1984, uses the term as well. Would he have consulted Plain Words on the topic?)

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1 Response to Of pedants, mavens, sticklers and …

  1. I’ve seen only-snooping a lot in my career as an editor. (Though I hadn’t seen that term for the practice until now.) It’s still a very popular copyediting fetish.

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