Books March 1997
Thoroughly Modern Burchfield
A review of The New Fowler's Modern English Usage by R. W. Burchfield.
The new, third edition of Fowler’s Modern English Usage is out, ta-rah, ta-rah! It was edited by Robert Burchfield, a New Zealander and Oxford don, author of numerous books on the English language and editor-in-chief of the venerable—if not sacrosanct—Oxford English Dictionary, second edition. As editor also of the Cambridge History of the English Language, Burchfield made himself a true citizen of Oxbridge. But an ox bridge can be no better than a pons asinorum.
Besides giving full due to American English and looking into other Englishes, F3— as I shall call it with a bow to Auden and Isherwood’s The Ascent of F6, a similarly daring enterprise in scaling the heights— boasts many other new features. H. W. Fowler’s F1, born a year after me in 1926, predates my linguistic...
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