Public Words

Randolph Quirk

  • Language – the Loaded Weapon by Dwight Bolinger
    Longman, 224 pp, £9.95, October 1980, ISBN 0 582 29107 0

There is a path in the rather dense forest of linguistics that respectable academics have been rather shy of treading in the past fifty years. This has not been so much because of the briars and potholes as because they haven’t liked the direction in which it was heading, they haven’t liked the footprints they could recognise, and above all, perhaps, because they have preferred to follow in the wake of contemporary trail-blazers claiming they were off to somewhere new. Not that the track sign-posted ‘Towards a Better Language’ has been deserted: far from it. Yet another reason for its unattractiveness to the fastidious professional has been that it has been tramped enthusiastically by a stream of people whom he has seen less as explorers than as amateur do-gooding missionaries. With a pretty divided sense of mission at that.

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