Plain Language

A reporteress on the St. Paul Globe speaks of a lady ‘who is a well-known real estate speculatress.’ The Pittsburg Press alludes to ‘the Presidentress of the Board of Lady Managers of the World’s Fair,’ and the Indianapolis Journal tells of the elopement of a ‘dime museum freakess.’

Des Moines Leader, quoted in New York Times, Feb. 13, 1891

Letter to the Times from the director of the Royal School for the Blind, Dec. 23, 1986:


Radio 4 this morning (December 15) introduced the verb ‘anonymise’. May I therefore letterise you that such verbising terribilises the English language and should not be radioised by the BBC.

Yours sincerely,

Bernard Coote

“I would never use a long word where a short one would answer the purpose,” wrote Oliver Wendell Holmes. “I know there are professors in this country who ‘ligate’ arteries. Other surgeons only tie them, and it stops the bleeding just as well.”