Happy Birthday, Henry Fowler: inventor of that/which rule is 150 on Monday, March 10
debaron at UIUC.EDU
Sat Mar 8 06:25:08 UTC 2008
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Happy Birthday, Henry Fowler: inventor of that/which rule is 150 on
Monday, March 10
March 10, 2008, is the 150th birthday of Henry Watson Fowler, high
school Latin teacher, lexicographer, and author of the Dictionary of
Modern English Usage (1926), the most important book on English usage
of the 20th century (sorry Strunk and White, you lose hands down).
So here’s my e-card to the man who single-handedly invented the
difference between that and which and convinced thousands of copy
editors that Druids had carved it on an ancient pillar at Stonehenge....
(picture here -- you have to go onlline to see it)
Actually, Fowler never hid the fact that he wasn’t given the that/
which rule on Mt. Sinai. Quite the opposite: he insisted that “the
relations between that, who, & which have come to us from our
forefathers as an odd jumble, & plainly show that the language has
not been neatly constructed by a master-builder” (Modern English
Usage, 1926, that, s.v.; I’m not going to recount Fowler’s rule here,
because it’s too complicated, requiring a discussion of restrictive
and nonrestrictive clauses that’s not particularly entertaining).
So Fowler decided to improve this jumble because, as he put it, “the
temptation to show how better use might have been made of the
material to hand is sometimes irresistible.”....
Read the rest at the Web of Language
Professor of English and Linguistics
Department of English
University of Illinois
608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801
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