A fictional biography?

My book, Describing Prescriptivism, has been out for nearly a year now, but I still run into references to usage guides in the literary literature I read that are too good not to make a note of. Or reread, as in the case of Zadie Smith’s On Beauty (2006), which I first read well before the Bridging the Unbridegable project set off.

The reference is to Fowler’s Modern English Usage (p. 146), and the character discussed is said to have written “a colossal, almost painfully detailed biograpny”. The only biography of Fowler I’m familiar with is the one by Jenny Mc Morris, called The Warden of English (2001). It is neither colossal nor painfully detailed, just an excellent book and a really good read to boot. So why the negative qualification? Is it Fowler’s reputation as a stickler for correctness that Smith is – unduly, in my opinion – drawing on?

bol.com | On Beauty, Zadie Smith | 9780141026664 | Boeken
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Another major publication on prescriptivism

The Bridging the Unbridgeable project may be officially closed, publications by its members continue to appear. Just now, my copy of Language Prescription: Values, Ideologies and Identity landed on our doormat, edited by Don Chapman and Jacob Rawlins. It includes papers by two of our former project members, Viktorija Kostadinova and Carmen Ebner. Congratulations to all!

You will find all the project’s publications here.

Multilingual: Title Detail Language Prescription by Don Chapman

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On (mis)pronunciation

On 8 July I wrote a post on a piece on irregardless in the UK Guardian newspaper, not because of the piece itself, but because it generated 327 responses from readers. This, I now realise, was small fry. A piece on (mis)pronunciation on 20 July has 3,192 responses! Incidentally, the irregardless piece has now racked up 1,568 responses. The (Guardian-reading) general public is well and truly engaged.

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Irregardless of Merriam-Webster

MW’s inclusion of irregardless spawned not only a cartoon in the UK Guardian newspaper, but a response from 327 members of the the general public!

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Data from copy-editors and proofreaders

Are you a copy-editor or a proofreader of English texts? We are interested in what you think! If you can spare a bit of your time, you will help researchers at Leiden University learn more about editing practices by filling in this survey


By entering your email at the end you could be randomly selected as one of the two winners to receive a $25 gift card from Amazon!

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On their way home

Many thanks for letting them stay with us, Kate! It was good to be able to hold them (and to see how small some of them are!).

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Lowth in the Economist

It doesn’t happen very often that Lowth (or indeed myself!) gets a mention in The Economist! Thanks, Alison, for letting us know.

(Can anyone help me find the author of the piece? I’d like to tell him/her about my new book on prescriptivism …)

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We need your input! Publications and courses on prescriptivism

We are currently compiling a list of available monographs—such as Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade and Carol Percy’s 2017 Prescription and Tradition: Establishing Standards across Time and Space—and university courses that focus on linguistic prescriptivism (in English, but also in other languages). For that we need your help. Please leave us a comment below if you are aware of any publications or universities that offer courses on prescriptivism! We’d much appreciate it!

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Just out!

Out today, and open access: Of greengrocers, sports commentators, estate agents and television presenters: who’s in a usage guide and why, published in Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development.

With thanks to Olivia Walsh for organising the symposium In the Shadow of  the Standard in Nottingham, in September 2018.

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Laziness has won!

Another piece from the UK Guardian on how the Apostrophe Protection Society has finally given up the unequal struggle!

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