What we say when

Adam Morton

  • Style and Communication in the English Language by Randolph Quirk
    Arnold, 136 pp, £4.95, December 1982, ISBN 0 7131 6260 0

This is the third collection of Randolph Quirk’s occasional pieces to appear in ten years. Like its predecessors, it’s a good read: each essay is short and its argument easy to follow, each contains a good joke and an amusingly bad one, and each makes a definite point about language. The point is often one which could not very easily be made in a more serious context, not because the point is irresponsible or unscholarly but because it is conjectural. He puts his guesses over so lightly one hardly sees that one is being asked to think about something difficult and indefinite. For this reason the writing is sometimes rather coy: you feel a conclusion approaching, the exposition leads up to it, there is a quick hint, and then ... a joke, a nice example, an elegant phrase distract you back to the conversational mode.

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