Fowler in the OED at last!

I’ve been at it at least since 2011, but Fowler has finally been given an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary. And not just as a noun (n2, to be precise), but the adjectives Fowlereque and Fowlerian are included as well (all of them have been there since Sepetember 2017 already). That just leaves Fowlerish, but then I suppose you can’t have it all. This in any case calls for celebration: great job, OED!

Posted in news | Tagged | Leave a comment

Yesss, I got cited! – twice

English Today has offered us a forum for getting feedback for our research between January 2014 and December 2016, with a postscript in the second issue of 2017. Since about the start of our interactive feature, ET linked up with Altmetric, an online tool that measures citation of publications.

Checking our various features, I did indeed find a score for one of the brief articles we wrote, and it happened to be my own, from the final volume of 2016. This is what it looks like:Clicking on the small badge showed that the article was retweeted twice, so this suggests (I suppose) that only online references are counted by the tool. Still, it will be interesting to see if more of our work comes to be cited, in tweets, blogs or elswhere. And we’ll definiely keep an eye out for when our special English Today issue appears in December (2018, 34/4).

Posted in news | Leave a comment

Six out online now! One more to go …

As a follow up of our project’s closing symposium, there will be a special issue of English Today later this year with most of the papers. Here are the ones that are out already:

One more paper to follow!

The printed version of our English Today special issue will be out in December, as number 34/4.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The death of the adverb

I fear that the Oldie (September 2019, a British monthly magazine whose title speaks of its readership – which of course includes me!) is a bit late for the party on this one …


Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Prescriptivism at ICEHL-20

Great news: Prescriptivism has a separate section at next week’s ICEHL-20 in Edinburgh, with five papers no less. Have a look at the book of abstracts if you’re interested.

Posted in news | Leave a comment

Greengrocers, footballers, sports commentators, estate agents, television presenters

We’ve written about the greengrocer’s apostrophe on this blog before, but what about these other people, footballers (known for their use of the perfect when other people would use the past tense in English instead), sports commentators (who seem to favour the flat adverb), estate agents (who allegedly overuse yourselves for you) and television presenters (these ones/those ones): what do these people have in common, and why do they get singled out for these particular language features?


I’d really like to know, and especially from our British readers, so please let me have your opinions!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Well, up to a point, Lord Copper!

I can’t even read read a Raymond Chandler novel without a pencil, I told Carol Percy when she was interviewing me for the Journal of English Linguistics (to appear in December this year). It is the fate of the linguist, she responded. In my case, it is the fate of someone interested in prescriptivistm. And it happened again!

Reading the collected Patrick Melrose novels (the series is currently being broadcast on Dutch television: what a treat!), I got stuck at p. 110, where I read: “‘Up to a point, Lord Copper,’ said David” (the incestuous father). Yesss, another one: I’d come across the expression before, in a usage guide no less. It is one of the usage problems to be found in Kingsley Amis’s The King’s English which I’d read for an article on the subject. Amis doesn’t exactly say what it means, just that he used it himself and that he thinks in is “misleading and should be dropped”. And he gives the source, the novel Scoop by Evelyn Waugh. All that makes it a usage problem, I suppose, but no more (I would say) than a “one-off” as Chapman (2010) calls such usage problems. What it means is explained in the Wikipedia entry on Scoop (you get there simply by googling for the phrase: three cheers for the Internet!): it means neither “yes” nor “no”, or both. Well, yes and no, sometimes things aren’t as straightforward as all that. (Lord Copper, a newspaper magnate, is just a fictional character.)

But is it used at all, I wondered, thinking of the threefold appraoch to our research we have been adopting for our work in this project (usage guides, attitudes to usage, actual usage).  So I  looked it up in the Hansard Corpus (200 years of British Parliament speeches,  7.6 million altogether: another treat!), and yes, it does occur: once in the 1980s, 7 times in the 1990s and 5 times in the 2000s. It is always used in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. But why only from the 1980s onwards? The novel dates from 1938. Why was the expression suddenly being used, and why did Kingsley Amis think he should proscribe it? Does anyone know? Edward St. Aubyn, can you help perhaps?


Chapman, Don. 2010. Bad ideas in the history of English usage. In Robert Cloutier, Anne Marie Hamilton-Brehm and William Kretzschmar (eds.), Studies in the History of the English Language V. Variation and Change in English Grammar and Lexicon. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter. 141–160.

Posted in usage features | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment