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It's Been Said Before

By Orin Hargraves

It's Been Said Before "examines why certain phrases become clichés and why they should be avoided -- or why they still have life left in them."

New from Cambridge University Press!


Sounds Fascinating

By J. C. Wells

How do you pronounce biopic, synod, and Breughel? - and why? Do our cake and archaic sound the same? Where does the stress go in stalagmite? What's odd about the word epergne? As a finale, the author writes a letter to his 16-year-old self.

Academic Paper

Title: Defending Strunk and White
Author: Michael Bulley
Institution: United Arab Emirates University
Linguistic Field: Applied Linguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: In ET102 (June 2010), Geoffrey K. Pullum poured scorn on the book The Elements of Style by W. Strunk and E. B. White, saying it had a ‘vice-like grip on Americans’ view of grammar and usage' and that ‘almost everything they say on that topic is wrong.’ Elements is a fairly short book, containing 85 pages of advice on writing, presenting some of it in a way you could describe as rules of usage. Pullum thinks that many Americans go further and treat it as holy writ. I should like to defend Elements here and to attack Pullum's critical method. Some ET readers may be surprised by this, as in 1992 I wrote ‘The vital principle is that there are no rules of correct usage. The basis for choice is aesthetic, not technical, and since language rests on convention, there is no authority that can justify your preferences.’ I stick to that. How, then, am I going to defend Elements without seeming to contradict myself? I think the answer is in what I went on to say: ‘That does not mean you should not make linguistic judgements: you should, but on grounds of quality, not of correctness.’ (Who Controls the Language?, ET31, July 1992.)


This article appears IN English Today Vol. 26, Issue 4.

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