The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

February 6, 2014

February 6, 1894

Eric Partridge (February 6, 1894 to June 1, 1979) was born in New Zealand but established himself in England after time at Cambridge doing post graduate work. Here after his marriage he settled into a life of researching the English language and compiling dictionaries. For this, he is very famous. Edmund Wilson called Eric Partridge "the Word King." His Shakespeare's Bawdy (1947) has been said to be the basis of modern Shakespeare studies. Still he was not apparently part of the academic world. He studied and wrote at the British Museum Library where he had his own desk for fifty years. He said "I don't regard myself—please excuse the switch from the impersonal he to the egotistic I—as an expert at anything; probably rightly, for I'm pretty sure I'm not."

What Partridge did have was a keen ear for cliches. He said:
"Expressions that offend me are clichés in general; all slipshoddery; unnecessary neologisms; obscene words and phrases that are dragged in for the sake of obscenity; not those which are integral, entirely natural, to dialogue or other matter." He
spoke of "that excellent blood sport 'cliché-hunting'."

We owe these quotes to Israel Shenker's Saturday Review appreciation of Partridge. Shenker summarized Partridge's accomplishment, in an article titled 
"Hail to the 'Word King'" (September 21, 1974):

In dictionaries massive, glossaries exhaustive, articles frothy, reviews engaging, he has put words in their place, communicating delight in well-ordered vocabularies and impatience with collections of letters artlessly posing as words.

Some books Partridge wrote are:

A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (1937). I read that you want an older edition of this book for your library, since editions since 1979 have been bowdlerized.

A Dictionary of Cliches. First published (1940).

Origins: A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English (1959).
We learned the origin of the word "cat" is Germanic, coming into old English as "catt" (a male cat) and the female form "catte."

A last Partridge quote: "Every worthwhile book contains many faults, and every worthwhile writer commits them."

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