Daily Archives: March 15, 2009

What flavour of English do you want?

This is taken from a presentation I gave at the Editors’ Association of Canada conference in Edmonton, June 2008. For the bibliography and a concise summary of some key points, see the handout (PDF, 72 KB)

I thought I wouldn’t call this “Register, collocation, and reflected meaning” because, well, that sounded a little dry. And I’m going to be starting into this subject with the use of a metaphor of sort. The metaphor I’m going to be using—and I think it’s a pretty viable one—is, as you may have guessed, that a piece of a text is like a piece of food. A document is like a dish. Words are like ingredients. Continue reading


This word’s current flavour of meaning is undoubtedly influenced to some extent by echoes of lax, lethargic, lacklustre, and perhaps lazy. There might even be a bit of a yawn in the central con. On the other hand, conic and its phonetic sibling comic don’t seem to have played into the mood much. Art history and aethetic philosophy types might (like Lessing) muse on the sublime suffering of Laocoon, but the classicists will more likely head straight to the Peloponnesus (we’ll get to that). Ask people what image this word brings to mind and it’s a pretty good bet it’ll be one of those strong, silent cowboy types – some might think of the Clint Eastwood or John Wayne types, while others might have a lazier layabout type in mind, but always it’s someone who speaks as though every word costs a dollar. The equivalent of those cowboys in ancient Greece was the Spartans, and in particular the Lacedaemonians (aka Laconians). They didn’t talk much. Too busy fighting, I reckon.