Continuing the usage game

On our blog, we often report on current developments in the usage debate, bits and pieces of our research findings and also new publications of usage guides. Being a true book addict, I would like to share two of the most recent additions not only to my own personal library but also to the stock of books dealing with the usage debate.

may i quoteThe first book is most probably the latest usage guide available at the moment. May I quote you on that? A Guide to Grammar and Usage was published in late 2015 and written by Stephen Spector, a member of the English Faculty of Stony Brook University. His take on English grammar and usage is quite refreshing as he takes a rather descriptive approach to the usage debate, but does not eschew providing his readers with rules of Standard English to follow. What makes this usage guide special are not only the numerous quotations of famous contemporaries, e.g. Lady Gaga, Hillary Clinton and George Clooney, but also short exercises at the end of usage entries to clarify Spector’s point of view. Furthermore, the distinction between different styles and degrees of formality is reflected in his usage advice and although he claims to be a traditionalist and “stuff English professor”, Spector seems pretty lenient and descriptive in his advice. Being an American usage guide, May I quote you on that? includes also information from different usage panels, such as the Harper Dictionary usage panel or the American Heritage Usage panel, and contrasts American with English usage.

gone completley
The second addition to my library is Has the World Gone Completely Mad…? Unpublished Letters to The Daily Telegraph edited by Iain Hollingshead and was also published in 2015. It does not come as a surprise that this book contains a chapter on the use and abuse of language. These short, but very amusing letters to the editor provide an interesting insight into how usage is perceived by the general public. To provide you with a taster, here’s a complaint about the Americanisation of British English:


“Sir – A true Brit would never use Americanisms. ‘Gonna’, the favourite word of George Osborne, is a no-no. Replacing the letter ‘t’ with the letter ‘d’ is a no-no-no-no. I am British. I am not Bridish. I am not going to sit here and accept the Americanisation of our language. Do you geddit or do you get it? It is insidious and needs to be stopped by the Broadcasting Watchdog.” (p. 129)


About Carmen Ebner

Carmen Ebner is a sociolinguist. In September 2017, she has obtained her PhD in Linguistics from Leiden University Centre for Linguistics (LUCL) in the Netherlands, where she worked on a project on language attitudes and prescriptivism in British English. Carmen's research interests include all things sociolinguistics. In particular, she is interested in linguistic discrimination, attitude elicitation techniques, language variation and change, and historical sociolinguistics.
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2 Responses to Continuing the usage game

  1. So Kamm’s is no longer the last usage guide!

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