2:56:11 PM

Whatever are you thinking about?

Hi there,

Being an editor is not such a big deal. You do have to drink lots of coffee and get to work before noon, but otherwise, most tasks are not very onerous – stuff like surfing the internet and thinking up puns for headlines.

But there is a serious side. In the never-ending war for better communication, editors must defend the English language against jargon, bureaucratese, woolly and wilful ambiguities, verbal flatulence, run-on sentences, needless repetition and the vampire bats of boredom and cliché. Against these enemies, any editor worth his salt has taken a solemn oath to pursue them, come what may, into their foetid burrows and do them to death.

On the positive side, editors are honour-bound to showcase the robust beauty of English. One of these is what grammarians call preposition stranding – moving prepositions away from their object. This is a quirk which non-native speakers are not good at and which generations of English teachers have looked down upon.

Winston Churchill, a master of muscular English idiom and a Nobel prize-winner in Literature, despised such narrow-minded prescriptivism. An over-zealous editor once blue-pencilled his text and he scribbled indignantly in the margin "This is the sort of English up with which I will not put." Touché.

Now that we are dabbling in French, I gather that preposition stranding has spread to Québec, where people are wont to say things like: j'avais pas personne a parler avec (I had no one to talk to).

Which brings me to the question of the maximum number of prepositions one can end a sentence with. Even the hardy Québécois are not game to add more than one on. The most I have seen in English is seven. A boy complains to his father: "What did you bring that book that I don't want to be read to out of up from under for?"

Any other nominations?

So far this week, we have posted five articles. Meg  McDonnell wonders when some Millennials are going to wake up to the big lie about reproductive freedom. Robert Reilly has some harsh words for the new US policy on using women as frontline combat troops.

Izzy Kalman reviews a documentary about workplace bullying and Andrea Valagussa reviews a powerful drama from Canada about a primary school teacher. Finally, John G. West explains why C.S. Lewis was sceptical of the overweening ambitions of some scientists.


Michael Cook,

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