“Basically … rather good”

Just decided to check up on the reception of Simon Heffer’s new (well, two years old by now) usage guide called Simply English, and found that Ben East, in The Guardian, described it as “basically … rather good”.  Interesting, in view of the rather substantial criticism this “journalist-turned-grammarian” as Ben East calls him, got on his earlier book Strictly English (2010). When confronted with this criticism in the online debate between usage experts “Between you and I the English language is going to the dogs” broadcast in 2014, Heffer seemed unaffected by what linguists like Geoff Pullum and David Crystal had said about his earlier book. So has anyone read Simply English yet, and is it indeed “rather good”?

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4 Responses to “Basically … rather good”

  1. Morana Lukač says:

    In the introduction of Simply English, Heffer responds to the criticism of Strictly English pointing to the lack of common sense of the ivory-tower linguists whom he also calls “politically motivated theorists”. I personally could not find reviews of Simply English written by linguists — perhaps enough was said about Heffer’s usage advice in the reviews of Strictly English already? The second book is an alphabetically-ordered, extended version of the first intended to be used as a reference book instead of being read cover-to-cover.

  2. Morana Lukač says:

    Here’s another review from the Independent. This one is a bit more negative than the Guardian’s describing Heffer as “a peevish, finger-wagging schoolmaster, insisting on correctness” http://goo.gl/GtE1i9

  3. Adrian says:

    It’s interesting, as ever. In his “Introduction”, Heffer refers to the “Oxford English Dictionary”, which “effectively codified the language” (p. xii), but although he is “aware that grammar has changed over the centuries, not least to avoid ambiguities or enforce greater precision” (p. xii), the only mention he makes of a grammar is to “the great grammarians of a century ago – notably the Fowler brothers” (p. xii). It is also interesting to read what he has to say about the “occasionally flawed” OED under “Words, meaning of” (p. 381).
    Unfortunately, for me, he seems to have nothing to say about “species nouns”, other than to remark on the “superfluous article” in “What kind of a husband does that?” (p. 193, “Kind of a”).

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