Re: Fowler question

Subject: Re: Fowler question
From: SANDRA CHARKER <scharker -at- OZEMAIL -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Sun, 1 Oct 1995 22:13:31 +1000

Brian Boisvert <brianb -at- ICONICS -dot- COM> asked:

> What is the difference between the Folwer books: _Modern English
> Usage_ and _The King's English_?

> Is one a different version of the other, or are they completely
> separate texts?

They're completely separate books.

I didn't know of The King's English till recently, when I was given a copy of a
1943 reprint of the 1908 (and possibly the only) abridged edition of The King's
English. It's a bit like Strunk & White; short (but this is an abridgement, I
don't know how long the full edition is) and organized in chapters that deal
with aspects of the language e.g. Vocabulary, Syntax, "Airs and Graces".

Modern English Usage is organized like a dictionary, with articles in
alphabetical order. Some samples from my cherished 1926 edition (the current
one's at work):

"and": 3 pages discussing punctuation, use and misuse, and lots of examples of

"delusion,illusion": a column on their meanings, when the words are
interchangeable and when they're not.

"metaphor": 4 pages covering (1) Live & dead metaphor, (2) Some pitfalls, (3)
Self-conscious and mixed metaphor

"technical terms": a long, long list of "technical terms in rhetoric, grammar,
logic, prosody, diplomacy, literature, &c., that a reader may be confronted
with or a writer have need of."

"jargon"... hmmmm, I didn't remember reading this: "jargon is perhaps the most
variously applied of a large number of words that are in different senses
interchangeable, and under it the distinctions between them may be pointed out.
The words are: _argot, cant, dialect, gibberish, idiom, jargon, lingo,
parlance, patois, shop, slang, vernacular_." When he gets to the word jargon
itself, he says "jargon is talk that is considered both ugly-sounding and hard
to understand: applied especially to (1) the sectional vocabulary of a science,
art, class, sect, trade, or profession, full of technical terms (cf. cant,
slang); (2) hybrid speech of different languages; (3) the use of long words,
circumlocution, and other clumsiness."

IMO, Modern English Usage, any edition, is a worthwhile book for any writer's
reference shelf. The King's English seems to me to be more dated because it's
more dogmatic, but that may be because I'm looking at an abridged edition.

Hope this helps.

Sandra Charker

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