Polemics & Exchanges

Clean Language

Thank you for publishing “Boris’s Literary Language,” by Ralph Berry in the October issue. Mr. Berry’s fine contributions, always instructive, illustrate the careful use of English that he identifies in the discourse of Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Two brief comments are warranted. The first is that while H. W. Fowler, whom Berry mentions among the illustrious “cleaners of language,” does not admit the word due when it is attached “to a notion extracted from a sentence,” such as a clause (in the sense of owing to). However, he does allow it when, like ordinary participles and adjectives, it is attached to a noun.

The second is that T. S. Eliot’s phrase in “Little Gidding” on “purify[ing] the dialect of the tribe” is borrowed (as Eliot well knew) from Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem “Le Tombeau d’Edgar Poe.” The line, “Donner un sens plus pur aux mots de la tribu”—“Give a purer meaning to the words of the tribe”—became a watchword for French followers of Mallarmé and the early English-language modernist poets.

—Catharine Savage Brosman 
Houston, Texas

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here

X