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Language Fears

Walter Nash

19 January 1989
Good English and the Grammarian 
by Sidney Greenbaum.
Longman, 152 pp., £6.95, February 1988, 0 582 29148 8
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Longman Guide to English Usage 
by Sidney Greenbaum and Janet Whitcut.
Longman, 786 pp., £10.95, June 1988, 0 582 55619 8
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Words in Time: A Social History of the English Vocabulary 
by Geoffrey Hughes.
Blackwell, 270 pp., £14.95, May 1988, 0 631 15832 4
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... shift is prompt, my acceptance of the social-discursive transfer will come much more slowly. Geoffrey Hughes’s Words in Time. It is dedicated ‘to all workers at the alveary’, in reference (I take it) to the emblematic title of a work by the Tudor lexicographer John Baret, who set his students to collect materials for a trilingual dictionary ...

Sod off, readers

John Sutherland

26 September 1991
Rude Words: A Discursive History of the London Library 
by John Wells.
Macmillan, 240 pp., £17.50, September 1991, 0 333 47519 4
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Swearing: A Social History of Foul Language, Oaths and Profanity in English 
by Geoffrey Hughes.
Blackwell, 283 pp., £16.95, August 1991, 0 631 16593 2
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... of ‘Fuck off!’ is Chikusho!, which apparently translates as the Billy Bunterism, ‘beasts!’ Geoffrey Hughes’s social history of swearing helps make sense of such anomalies, tracing the use of English rude words from the ritualistic Germanic oath to the latest Americanism. Swearing is a notoriously fluid and unfixed thing, but ...
7 March 1985
Montaigne’s Tower, and Other Poems 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Secker, 72 pp., £5.95, October 1984, 0 436 18806 6
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Collected Poems: 1963-1980 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 256 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 85031 557 3
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The Faber Book of Reflective Verse 
edited by Geoffrey Grigson.
Faber, 238 pp., £7.95, October 1984, 0 571 13299 5
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Blessings, Kicks and Curses 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 279 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 85031 558 1
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The Private Art: A Poetry Notebook 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 231 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 9780850315592
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Before the Romantics: An Anthology of the Enlightenment 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Salamander, 349 pp., £5.95, September 1984, 0 907540 59 7
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... Geoffrey Grigson’s best poem, and the type of his best poetry, is ‘His Swans’. Evidently and justly, he thinks well enough of it to put it in the Faber Book of Reflective Verse as his sole exhibit: Remote music of his swans, their long Necks ahead of them, slow Beating of their wings, in unison, Traversing serene Grey wide blended horizontals Of endless sea and sky ...

Fit and Few

Donald Davie

3 May 1984
The Making of the Reader: Language and Subjectivity in Modern American, English and Irish Poetry 
by David Trotter.
Macmillan, 272 pp., £20, March 1984, 0 333 30632 5
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... had struck a loudly answering chord from the settled centre! That is the predicament of Larkin, of Hughes, of Heaney: each of them initially supposing himself a marginal person speaking up for marginal people, yet forced to recognise – as the royalty statements convey their gratifying yet unnerving message – that the stance he had thought of as special was ...

Outcanoevre

Aingeal Clare: Alice Oswald

23 March 2006
Woods etc 
by Alice Oswald.
Faber, 56 pp., £12.99, May 2005, 0 571 21852 0
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... through these various voices. The result is similar in spirit to Basil Bunting’s Briggflatts or Geoffrey Hill’s Mercian Hymns, a scrupulous tilling and scouring of the poet’s homeland. Despite her marked territoriality, there is an aura of communion in Oswald’s work (communion with God, nature, language – anything to hand) which can at times seem ...

Unction and Slaughter

Simon Walker: Edward IV

10 July 2003
Arthurian Myths and Alchemy: The Kingship of Edward IV 
by Jonathan Hughes.
Sutton, 354 pp., £30, October 2002, 0 7509 1994 9
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... the pursuit of political life. It is within this context of political mentalities that Jonathan Hughes situates his study of the Duke of York’s charismatic eldest son, Edward IV. Edward has always received a mixed historiographical press. Contemporaries recognised and celebrated his energy, intelligence and good fortune, but gave due weight as well to his ...

Ruling Imbecilities

Andrew Roberts

7 November 1991
The Enemy’s Country: Words, Contexture and Other Circumstances of Language 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Oxford, 153 pp., £19.95, August 1991, 0 19 811216 5
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... On 11 November 1990 Geoffrey Hill published a Remembrance Day poem entitled ‘Carnival’, in the Sunday Correspondent. The occasion, and the appearance in a national newspaper, suggested the sort of work that a poet laureate might be expected to produce, although Hill’s acerbic satire on contemporary Britain was most unlike the arch public lyrics that Ted Hughes has published since his elevation to that role ...

The New Narrative

John Kerrigan

16 February 1984
The Oxford Book of Narrative Verse 
edited by Iona Opie and Peter Opie.
Oxford, 407 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 19 214131 7
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Time’s Oriel 
by Kevin Crossley-Holland.
Hutchinson, 61 pp., £4.95, August 1983, 0 09 153291 4
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On Gender and Writing 
edited by Michelene Wandor.
Pandora, 166 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 0 86358 021 1
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Stone, Paper, Knife 
by Marge Piercy.
Pandora, 144 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 9780863580222
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The Achievement of Ted Hughes 
edited by Keith Sagar.
Manchester, 377 pp., £27.50, March 1983, 0 7190 0939 1
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Ted Hughes and Paul Muldoon 
Faber, £6.95, June 1983, 0 571 13090 9Show More
River 
by Ted Hughes and Peter Keen.
Faber, 128 pp., £10, September 1983, 0 571 13088 7
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Quoof 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 64 pp., £4, September 1983, 0 571 13117 4
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...  ...

Top People

Luke Hughes: The ghosts of Everest

20 July 2000
Ghosts of Everest: The Authorised Story of the Search for Mallory & Irvine 
by Jochen Hemmleb and Larry Johnson.
Macmillan, 206 pp., £20, October 1999, 9780333783146
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Lost on Everest: The Search for Mallory and Irvine 
by Peter Firstbrook.
BBC, 244 pp., £16.99, September 1999, 0 563 55129 1
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The Last Climb: The Legendary Everest Expeditions of George Mallory 
by David Breashears and Audrey Salkeld.
National Geographic, 240 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 7922 7538 1
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... by which time most of his close friends (he was very well connected) had crossed the Channel: Geoffrey Winthrop Young, George Trevelyan, Geoffrey Keynes, Robert Graves (a former pupil) and Rupert Brooke (a contemporary at Magdalene). Another friend, Lytton Strachey, was renowned for his obsession with Mallory’s good ...

Frog’s Knickers

Colin Burrow: How to Swear

26 September 2013
Holy Shit: A Brief History of Swearing 
by Melissa Mohr.
Oxford, 316 pp., £16.99, May 2013, 978 0 19 974267 7
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... adjectives, Batman! These closely integrated homosocial groups do absobloodylutely love ’em. As Geoffrey Hughes noted in his excellent Swearing: A Social History of Foul Language, Oaths and Profanity in English, the more charged a swear word is the more susceptible it becomes to grammatical transformation.* This means that the boundaries between nouns ...
6 July 1989
Who Framed Colin Wallace? 
by Paul Foot.
Macmillan, 306 pp., £12.95, May 1989, 0 333 47008 7
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... inquiry (i.e. that Terry’s was unsatisfactory); but then set up a low-level affair under Judge Hughes, a retired circuit judge. Mr Prior did, however, specifically assure the House that it would be within Hughes’s terms of reference to investigate the allegation of a cover-up – that is, the question of why there had ...

Enlarging Insularity

Patrick McGuinness: Donald Davie

20 January 2000
With the Grain: Essays on Thomas Hardy and Modern British Poetry 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 346 pp., £14.95, October 1998, 1 85754 394 7
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... transposition of the medieval quest, in which a gunslinger goes in search of the elusive Howard Hughes (‘They say he moved to Vegas/or bought Vegas and/moved it./I can’t remember which’), accompanied by a narrating ‘I’ and a talking horse who paraphrases Heidegger. To find Dorn, the Black Mountaineer and poet of the American Dream ...

On Not Being Sylvia Plath

Colm Tóibín: Thom Gunn on the Move

13 September 2018
Selected Poems 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 336 pp., £16.99, July 2017, 978 0 571 32769 0
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... being shaped under great pressure.’ But what really made me sit up straight was his remark about Geoffrey Hill’s ‘Annunciations’, the last poem in the book: ‘I understand “Annunciations” only in the sense that cats and dogs may be said to understand human conversations (i.e. they grasp something by the tone of the speaking voice), but without ...

Jihad

James Wood

5 August 1993
TheNew Poetry 
edited by Michael Hulse, David Kennedy and David Morley.
Bloodaxe, 352 pp., £25, May 1993, 1 85224 244 2
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Who Whispered Near Me 
by Killarney Clary.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £5.95, February 1993, 1 85224 149 7
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Sunset Grill 
by Anne Rouse.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £5.95, March 1993, 1 85224 219 1
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Half Moon Bay 
by Paul Mills.
Carcanet, 95 pp., £6.95, February 1993, 9781857540000
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Shoah 
by Harry Smart.
Faber, 74 pp., £5.99, April 1993, 0 571 16793 4
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The Autonomous Region 
by Kathleen Jamie.
Bloodaxe, 79 pp., £7.95, March 1993, 9781852241735
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Collected Poems 
by F.T. Prince.
Carcanet, 319 pp., £25, March 1993, 1 85754 030 1
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Stirring Stuff 
by Selwyn Pritchard.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 145 pp., £8.99, April 1993, 9781856193085
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News from the Brighton Front 
by Nicki Jackowska.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 86 pp., £7.99, April 1993, 1 85619 306 3
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Translations from the Natural World 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 67 pp., £6.95, March 1993, 1 85754 005 0
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... learned from Frank O’Hara (‘I think on the whole I would rather read/ Frank O’Hara than Geoffrey Chaucer,’ writes Geoff Hattersley). And it is true that a fighting politics seethes in poets like Sean O’Brien and Simon Armitage. One feels, however, that the best and most interesting poets in this large anthology are not the writers that fit ...

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