I write a weekly column, WordWays, in the Otago Daily Times newspaper, in which I look at language matters, very broadly conceived. Articles range from the history and grammar and wordstock of English, to its family of languages and beyond, to the purposes of speaking and writing in it, and the rights and wrongs of spelling, pronunciation, grammar, syntax, you name it. I return whenever possible to the best exemplars of our language, Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens — the giants of English expression.
Recently someone described me as a “word-surgeon”. This prompted me to examine her metaphor. I dissect words, and study their anatomy. I work out how language ticks and sometimes I sound like a GP when asked for advice on usage. But, a word-surgeon?