The "famously" epidemic

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Fri May 15 22:45:06 UTC 2009

You folks have no doubt figured out that I read very little written in the last 150 years, so perhaps I am out of touch.  (My children would say, "what's this perhaps?"  In any event, when I do venture into the NYTimes, the New Yorker or TLS (my 3 contacts with the your world), it seems to me that I am of late encountering on every page sentences to the effect "He famously said" or "She famously did".  Is this an illusion on my part?  Or is this like "begging the question", which is enjoying such a vogue these days.

I've no objection to people doing and saying things famously -- it's a one-word/three-syllable way of saying "as is well known", and brevity is good.  Generally, whatever was famously done or said isn't famous with me, but that's my shortcoming, no doubt.

By the way -- those of you who feel most alive when sneering at prescriptivist rants should read Hugo Williams' column in last week's TLS -- a long catalogue of the vile phrases, ill phrases, used by the youth of our day.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list