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It's Been Said Before

By Orin Hargraves

It's Been Said Before "examines why certain phrases become clichés and why they should be avoided -- or why they still have life left in them."

New from Cambridge University Press!


Sounds Fascinating

By J. C. Wells

How do you pronounce biopic, synod, and Breughel? - and why? Do our cake and archaic sound the same? Where does the stress go in stalagmite? What's odd about the word epergne? As a finale, the author writes a letter to his 16-year-old self.

Academic Paper

Title: The grocer's apostrophe: popular prescriptivism in the 21st century
Author: Joan C. Beal
Institution: University of Sheffield
Linguistic Field: Applied Linguistics; Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: '“Some shops use an apostrophe, wrongly, to indicate an plural (‘pea's’), but will generally omit the apostrophe when one is actually required (‘new seasons asparagus’), a phenomenon sometimes referred to as the greengrocer's (or grocer's) apostrophe. Try to avoid this.” (Marsh & Hodsdon (eds), 2008: 5)

In this article, I shall examine a range of evidence from printed and web-based sources to gauge the extent of interest in punctuation, and the kinds of discourse employed in discussion of these matters. I shall also compare this with the comparative lack of attention paid to punctuation by 18th-century ‘prescriptivists’. I shall also consider why prescriptivism has returned with such a vengeance in the 21st century, and why punctuation is a focus of attention.


This article appears IN English Today Vol. 26, Issue 2.

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