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Simon Agonistes

Randolph Quirk, 5 November 1981

Paradigms Lost: Reflections on Literacy and its Decline 
by John Simon.
Chatto, 222 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 0 7011 2601 9
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... memory for such things. In the present book, he recalls a time when, in a San Francisco debate, ‘Randolph Quirk ... accused me of letting my needle get stuck’ – mild, in all conscience, by comparison with Patrick Owens, who is remembered for calling him, a couple of years earlier, ‘a remorseless and fatuous nitpicker’. This is surely ...

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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... 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 ...

Dictionaries

Randolph Quirk, 25 October 1979

Collins Dictionary of the English Language 
by P. Hanks, T.H. Long and L. Urdang.
Collins, 1690 pp., £7.95
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... English lexicography​ knocks Johnnie Walker into a tricuspidal fedora. Over four hundred years, and going stronger than ever. Of course, in the 16th century the market was for ‘bilingual’ dictionaries (especially Latin-English). We had to wait upon Robert Cawdrey in 1604 for a ‘monolingual’ model – aimed at ‘Ladies … or other unskilfull persons ...

Composition

Barbara Strang, 4 June 1981

Designs in Prose 
by Walter Nash.
Longman, 228 pp., £10.50, June 1980, 0 582 29100 3
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... is rare. Both, fortunately, are to be found in the Longman English Language Series edited by Randolph Quirk. This has so far produced a dozen good books, at least half of them works of high and lasting importance. The latest is among the best, and will appeal to, and beyond, the readership of the series as a whole. What Walter Nash sets out to ...

Noam’s Ark

Walter Nash, 25 October 1990

The Twitter Machine: Reflections on Language 
by Neil Smith.
Blackwell, 275 pp., £9.95, September 1989, 0 631 16926 1
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English in Use 
by Randolph Quirk and Gabriele Stein.
Longman, 262 pp., £17.95, September 1990, 0 582 06612 3
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... I was lucky enough to be shown a proof copy of a book called The Use of English. This volume, by Randolph Quirk, did me and countless others a great service, by demonstrating how students of the English language – shuffling misfits corralled into a dusty corner of Literature’s great kingdom – might turn without excuse from their contemplation of ...

What we say when

Adam Morton, 1 April 1983

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

1984 and ‘1984’

Randolph Quirk, 16 February 1984

... About thirty miles off the Turkish coast, and just south-east of Nikaria, in the Dodecanese, there is a Greek island locally known as Patmo. I begin with that geomorphic truth in order to demonstrate a non-trivial aspect of textual structure – namely, that while the last sentence of a discourse is measurably predictable, the first is not. Tradition has it that it was in or on Patmo or Patmos that St John the Divine saw the Apocalypse – a Greek word meaning the disclosure of long-term planning or the shape of things to come ...

The Englishness of English

Roy Harris, 6 November 1980

Studies in English Linguistics for Randolph Quirk 
edited by Sidney Greenbaum and Jan Svartvik.
Longman, 304 pp., £18, September 1980, 0 582 55079 3
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... people’s view, would be the honorand to whom this collection of essays is dedicated, Professor Randolph Quirk of University College, London. Thirty years of scholarly activity devoted primarily to the study of the English language have won him the deserved respect of academic colleagues both here and abroad. Doubtless one of the secrets of his success ...

Only God speaks Kamassian

Walter Nash, 7 January 1988

The World’s Major Languages 
edited by Bernard Comrie.
Croom Helm, 1025 pp., £50, March 1988, 9780709932437
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Studies in Lexicography 
edited by Robert Burchfield.
Oxford, 200 pp., £27.50, April 1988, 0 19 811945 3
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Van Winkle’s Return: Change in American English 1966-1986 
by Kenneth Wilson.
University Press of New England, 193 pp., £7.95, August 1988, 0 87451 394 4
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Words at Work: Lectures on Textual Structure 
by Randolph Quirk.
Longman, 137 pp., £5.75, March 1988, 9780582001206
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The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language 
by David Crystal.
Cambridge, 472 pp., £25, November 1988, 0 521 26438 3
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... it is a record of an essay in communication, being a version of eight public lectures given by Sir Randolph Quirk in Singapore in 1985-86. The lectures rehearse in detail the conditions under which texts are constructed, the creative rules which all successful writers acknowledge, though they perhaps could not enumerate them. Sir ...

Incriminating English

Randolph Quirk, 24 September 1992

Language, Self and Society: A Social History of Language 
edited by Peter Burke and Roy Porter.
Polity, 358 pp., £45, December 1991, 0 7456 0765 9
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Images of English: A Cultural History of the Language 
by Richard Bailey.
Cambridge, 329 pp., £16.95, March 1992, 0 521 41572 1
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The Oxford Companion to the English Language 
edited by Tom McArthur and Feri McArthur.
Oxford, 1184 pp., £25, September 1992, 9780192141835
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The History of the English Language: A Source Book 
by David Burnley.
Longman, 373 pp., £25, January 1992, 0 582 02522 2
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The Cambridge History of the English Language. Vol. I: Beginnings to 1066 
edited by Richard Hogg and Norman Blake.
Cambridge, 609 pp., £60, August 1992, 9780521264747
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... Among various worries I have about the degree subject English, the most serious is the decline (to near vanishing point in many universities) of historical language study. One accepts, of course, that there is an awful lot else to claim the attention of teachers and taught; that the literature of the past two hundred years alone is more than enough challenge for the three short years of undergraduate life ...

English Changing

Frank Kermode, 7 February 1980

The State of the Language 
edited by Leonard Michaels and Christopher Ricks.
California, 609 pp., £14.95, January 1980, 0 520 03763 4
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... the poetry of. The expert view, as I’ve said, seems to be that there is nothing to worry about; Randolph Quirk, who has surveyed modern English like nobody else, affirms, in his usual learned and jovial manner, that English-speaking humanity is doing pretty well; that foul language is not more prevalent than it was, merely subject to a different social ...

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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Words 
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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Puns 
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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... whom?’?The blurb to the wonderful vast new Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (Quirk-Greenbaum-Leech-Svartvik) says truly of its quadrumvirate that they are ‘acknowledged to be leading authorities in the field of English language’. If they are authorities, then, as human beings and as an institution, they are susceptible of ...

Mizzled

Roy Harris, 21 February 1985

Longman Dictionary of the English Language 
by Randolph Quirk.
Longman, 1875 pp., £14.95, October 1984, 0 582 55511 6
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The Private Lives of English Words 
by Louis Heller, Alexander Humez and Malcah Dror.
Routledge, 333 pp., £12.95, May 1984, 0 7102 0006 4
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The Penguin Dictionary of Troublesome Words 
by Bill Bryson.
Viking, 173 pp., £7.95, April 1984, 0 7139 1653 2
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The Origins of English Words: A Discursive Dictionary of Indo-European Roots 
by Joseph Shipley.
Johns Hopkins, 637 pp., $39.95, May 1984, 0 8018 3004 4
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A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English 
by Eric Partidge and Paul Beale.
Routledge, 1400 pp., £45, May 1984, 0 7100 9820 0
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... On 10 May 1933 an undergraduate at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, wrote in her diary a description of the clothes she was wearing on that sultry summer’s day. The description includes the phrase blue celanese trollies. The diary entry in question was not published until 1984, by which time the diarist, Barbara Pym, had become a cult figure in English literary circles ...

Good enough for Jesus

Charlotte Brewer, 25 January 1990

The State of the Language: 1990 Edition 
edited by Christopher Ricks and Leonard Michaels.
Faber, 531 pp., £17.50, January 1990, 9780571141821
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Clichés and Coinages 
by Walter Redfern.
Blackwell, 305 pp., £17.50, October 1989, 0 631 15691 7
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Rhetoric: The Wit of Persuasion 
by Walter Nash.
Blackwell, 241 pp., £25, October 1989, 0 631 16754 4
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... between English and another language. Professional linguists (among them Sidney Greenbaum and Randolph Quirk) jostle with poets and novelists (including Medbh McGuckian and Amy Tan). David Dabydeen writes ‘On Not Being Milton: Nigger Talk in England Today’, and discusses, in impeccably establishment English, a question that might just as well ...

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