Category Archives: usage features

Is different from really correct?

The reference is to the title of an article from 1 January 2022 on the Guardian online, by subeditor Susan McDonald. With an amazing 4194 comments in three days, the opportunity to add another one is now unfortunately closed. I … Continue reading

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A very unlikely British phrase

Watching the final episode of the BBC mini-series A Very British Scandal last night I was struck by the Duke of Argyll saying “This battle between you and I …”. It would have been highly unlikely for a man of … Continue reading

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Language columns in major newspapers

It’s great to come across language columns in newspapers like The Economist and, more recently, the New York Times. It is even greater if they deal with aspects of prescriptivism, and linguists’ as well as the general public’s reactions to … Continue reading

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Roadkill’s scriptwriters

For a paper I’m writing on the use of who/whom I’m trying to get in touch with the scriptwriters of Roadkill, a British political thriller series that was broadcast in the UK and the US towards the end of 2020 … Continue reading

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That if a usage problem in English?

Two of my colleagues at the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics are working on the collocation of dat “that” and als “if” in sentences like Hij dacht dat als hij drukte, het luikje open zou gaan (“He thought that if he pushed, … Continue reading

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Breaking the who/whom rule in English literature

For a paper I’m planning to write on the breaking of prescriptive rules by literary authors for characterisation purposes, I’m looking for specific examples of the breaking of the who/whom rule. I have several examples of them already, and have … Continue reading

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More prescriptive commentary in the Smiley trilogy

My reading of the last book of John Le Carré’s Karla trilogy, featuring George Smiley, Smiley’s People (1979), produced two more prescriptive comments. (There may have been more, but these caught my attention, possibly because both are in the HUGE … Continue reading

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George Smiley a prescriptivist?

Eighteen months or so ago I wrote a post about John le Carré, because I’d discovered that, like Kingsley Amis, Len Deighton and Ian McEwan, he too writes metalinguistic usage comments in his novels. My post then was about a … Continue reading

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Just out: paper on flat adverbs by Morana Lukač and Ingrid Tieken

Congratulations, Sandra Jansen and Lucia Siebers, on the appearance of your book, and to Raymond Hickey in whose honour it was published! As for Morana and me, we’re very happy that it is out, and in my case, just in … Continue reading

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An anachronism in The Mitford Murders

Being a fan of Nancy Mitford, and having read the Mitford sisters’ entire correspondence  (ed. Mosley 2007) as well as their biography by Mary Lovell (2001), I was naturally curious about The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes, the more so since … Continue reading

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