Lofty meanness

June 4, 2004

Mass higher education needs its popularisers as never before. So Jean Aitchison's review of Melvyn Bragg's The Adventure of English (Books, May 14) was particularly mean-spirited.

Acknowledging that it is a "romp" aimed at the "general reader", she then assesses it as a potential student text. Almost alone among popular commentators, Bragg uses his media position to provide a platform for a wide range of academic opinion across a broad (and sometimes unfashionable) disciplinary base. Aitchison, as an emeritus professor of language and communication, must have been well aware of the fresher's trick she was pulling in creating this "straw man" to review.

Or perhaps we should be charitable and say that it was just a "senior moment".

David Watkins
Postgraduate Research Centre
Southampton Business School
Southampton University

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