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Fits and Excursions

Walter Nash, 7 August 1986

The Complete Plain Words 
by Ernest Gowers, edited by Sidney Greenbaum and Janet Whitcut.
HMSO, 288 pp., £5.50, May 1986, 0 11 701121 5
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Educational Linguistics 
by Michael Stubbs.
Blackwell, 286 pp., £25, June 1986, 0 631 13898 6
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... civil servant who felt that bureaucrats should learn to write like human beings. Sir Ernest Gowers’s Plain Words (1948) and The ABC of Plain Words (1951) jointly became The Complete Plain Words (1954), continuing happily into a second edition (1973) under the urbane guardianship of Sir Bruce Fraser; and here it is afresh, deftly ...

Public Words

Randolph Quirk, 19 February 1981

Language – the Loaded Weapon 
by Dwight Bolinger.
Longman, 224 pp., £9.95, October 1980, 0 582 29107 0
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... courteous to what he sees in Britain as ‘such respected scholar-shamans as H.W. Fowler and Sir Ernest Gowers’. The ‘American species’ are to be exposed for their élitism, their antipathy to minorities, their horror of change, and (of course) their gross inconsistency, itself born of ignorance and prejudice. But Bolinger just as rightly ...

With Luck

John Lanchester, 2 January 1997

The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage 
edited by R.W. Burchfield.
Oxford, 864 pp., £16.99, November 1996, 0 19 869126 2
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... now 41. He moved to London, where he scratched a living writing pieces, ‘and attempted’, in Ernest Gowers’s words, ‘to demonstrate what he had always maintained to be true – that a man ought to be able to live on £100 a year’. In 1903 he moved to Guernsey and began working with his brother Francis Fowler, to whom Modern English Usage is ...

Hugh Dalton to the rescue

Keith Thomas, 13 November 1997

The Fall and Rise of the Stately Home 
by Peter Mandler.
Yale, 523 pp., £19.95, April 1997, 0 300 06703 8
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Ancient as the Hills 
by James Lees-Milne.
Murray, 228 pp., £20, July 1997, 0 7195 5596 5
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The Fate of the English Country House 
by David Littlejohn.
Oxford, 344 pp., £20, May 1997, 9780195088762
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... to the National Trust. Dalton’s successor, Sir Stafford Cripps, appointed a committee under Sir Ernest Gowers, which in 1950 declared that ‘the English country house is the greatest contribution made by England to the visual arts ... and has seldom, if ever, been equalled in the history of civilisation.’ Instead of more public ownership and ...

True Science

M.F. Perutz, 19 March 1981

Advice to a Young Scientist 
by P.B. Medawar.
Harper and Row, 109 pp., £4.95, February 1980, 0 06 337006 9
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... to avoid such circumlocution by a pamphlet called ‘Plain Words’ which Churchill asked Sir Ernest Gowers to write in order to teach civil servants better style. Medawar chides scientists for putting off the hard task of writing up their research, but he overlooks the real reason for their stalling, which is that before the results have been ...

Who whom?

Christopher Ricks, 6 June 1985

The English Language Today 
edited by Sidney Greenbaum.
Pergamon, 345 pp., £12.50, December 1984, 0 08 031078 8
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The English Language 
by Robert Burchfield.
Oxford, 194 pp., £9.50, January 1985, 9780192191731
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A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language 
by Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech and Jan Svartvik.
Longman, 1779 pp., £39.50, May 1985, 0 582 51734 6
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by John Silverlight.
Macmillan, 107 pp., £17.50, May 1985, 9780333380109
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Faux Amis and Key Words: A Dictionary-Guide to French Language, Culture and Society through Lookalikes and Confusables 
by Philip Thody, Howard Evans and Gwilym Rees.
Athlone, 224 pp., £16, February 1985, 0 485 11243 4
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by Walter Redfern.
Blackwell, 234 pp., £14.95, October 1984, 0 631 13793 9
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Fair of Speech: The Uses of Euphemism 
edited by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 222 pp., £9.95, April 1985, 0 19 212236 3
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... they are even more intimidating as a priesthood than were such old mandarins as the Fowlers or Gowers. For if you wanted, under the old regime (which acknowledged that it was a regime, and didn’t pretend to be a Citizen’s Advice Bureau), to know what was correct, you could look the matter up in a small book that was not technical, not dauntingly ...

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