Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

New from Oxford University Press!


Oxford Handbook of Corpus Phonology

Edited by Jacques Durand, Ulrike Gut, and Gjert Kristoffersen

Offers the first detailed examination of corpus phonology and serves as a practical guide for researchers interested in compiling or using phonological corpora

New from Cambridge University Press!


The Languages of the Jews: A Sociolinguistic History

By Bernard Spolsky

A vivid commentary on Jewish survival and Jewish speech communities that will be enjoyed by the general reader, and is essential reading for students and researchers interested in the study of Middle Eastern languages, Jewish studies, and sociolinguistics.

New from Brill!


Indo-European Linguistics

New Open Access journal on Indo-European Linguistics is now available!

Query Details

Query Subject:   author of "English words" quote
Author:   kemmer kemmer
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Linguistic LingField(s):  General Linguistics
Subject Language(s):  English

Query:   Can anyone tell me the original source of the following quote about
English words? Failing that, any reference at all as to where the
quote has appeared in print?

''The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that
English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow
words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways
to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.''
- James D. Nicoll

I have this quote posted on my course webpage for my course ''English Words:
Structure, History, Use'' (

To the best of my recollection, I got the quote out of an old book on
the English language published in the 50s or 60s, which I no longer
have (and I can't remember who it's by or the title). I think I've
seen the quote reproduced in more recent books on language too, but I
don't know where. Over the past 5 or 6 years, I have gotten the
occasional inquiry about where it comes from. But nobody can find any
reference to anything written by James D. Nicoll.

Now, somebody has posted the quote onto the American Bar
Association's SOLOSEZ listserve for solo and small firm attorneys.
And I am getting emails from lawyers asking about the source
and the context.

Can anybody help me satisfy the curiosity of word lovers about the
origin of this quote? (including myself). Or as one of my
correspondents put it, ''Who the hell is James D. Nicoll?''

- Suzanne Kemmer
LL Issue: 13.406
Date posted: 14-Feb-2002


Sums main page