Elizabeth East

Elizabeth East is a writer, lawyer and PhD student of linguistics.

Prince Harry’s ‘Americanisms’ are no such thing

Ever since Prince Harry moved to Los Angeles, royal commentators with an interest in the English language have been watching what he says. He may have walked the walk but has he also started to talk the talk? In October 2020, the Mail ran a piece headed ‘Prince Harry calls opening the bonnet ‘popping the

The art of the non-apology

‘Johnson apologises for lockdown garden party’ announced the Times on Wednesday. But did he? It’s quite a skill, the non-apology, and our Prime Minister is a non-apologiser par excellence, the Nureyev of not really meaning it. Academics working in conflict resolution have analysed what makes a good apology and come up with six elements: expressing

What’s the problem with ‘literally’?

How does the word ‘literally’ make you feel? For a lot of language-lovers, the answer will be somewhere between mildly irritated and fist-gnawingly furious. It’s the misuse of the word that most perturbs. It has a habit of lurking where it has no place to be, taking a perfectly acceptable (if conventional) metaphor and turning into nonsense.

In defence of the word ‘so’

Much has been written in these pages about the modern tendency to start sentences with ‘so’.  It’s been called an ‘irritating adornment’ portentously announcing the arrival of a new thought but adding nothing to its expression. I often find myself opening sentences with ‘so’ and I feel entirely relaxed about it. ‘So’ has a long history. Shakespeare’s