It was February 1997, and Robert Burchfield’s The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage had been out for three months. Just as the 1st and 2nd editions of the Dictionary of Modern English Usage came to be known as ‘Fowler’, The Economist asked itself whether the next edition would be known as ‘Burchfield’:
The 1926 Fowler is already a period piece, though no one has ever gone wrong by taking its advice. The same, no doubt, will in time be true of “Burchfield” – as, perhaps, by 2097 the publisher of its latest revision will dare to call it.
– The Economist 1 February 1997.
It turns out The Economist didn’t have to wait for 100 years to get an answer, and it is ‘No’.
Yesterday, the 4th edition of ‘Fowler’ was published: Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage, edited by Jeremy Butterfield. It seems that Fowler is still THE name when it comes to guides to modern English…
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