Magazine article The Spectator

BOOKENDS - Hang the Participle

Magazine article The Spectator

BOOKENDS - Hang the Participle

Article excerpt

An awful lot of books are being published these days about the English language. David Crystal has a new one out every few weeks, and John Sutherland probably has half a dozen on the go.

The Language Wars:

(John Murray, £17.99) is Henry Hitchings's third and unlikely to be his last.

Previous books have been described as 'chewy and edible' and 'a goldmine of pleasures', which leads you to expect something discursive, entertaining and not particularly substantial, but Hitchings (in real life the Evening Standard 's drama critic) has a serious, even polemical purpose here.

His intention is to show us that 'proper' English, the basis of all that Simon Heffer holds most dear, is a ramshackle construct whose rules are constantly changing, and that there was no golden age when everyone spoke properly and knew his gerunds. …

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