Dead letters

ABC and Ramón Pérez Maura are taken to task by Peter Harvey Linguist. As usual, he’s absolutely right, but I’d just like to enter a plea in mitigation on one count: “never begin a letter with ‘I'” used to be quite common advice. For example, in Correspondence, credits and traffic: Part I: Business correspondence (1914) we learn that

One of the maxims of courtesy in former days [!] used to be “Never begin a letter with I.” This is no longer regarded as a strict rule. Indeed, there are times when its observance results in awkwardness of expression.

And the injunction may still be in force in Nigeria, surely the great epistolary nation of our time. Maybe ABC – I don’t think they’ll sue if I describe them as conservative – plan to specialise in the diffusion of foreign languages as they were once spoke and writ. Pérez Maura, one of their younger writers, recently celebrated his 157th birthday.

(I understand that Merkel resents Mas’ deficit-busting use of postage stamps instead of email, but don’t let that blight your happy new year.)

Similar posts


  1. Thank you for the mention, as always. Could you please note that my blog is now called Lavengro? This rebranding is partly to fit in with the current fashion for language blogs that are not anonymous but nevertheless choose non-personal names, and also to go with my publishing business called Lavengro Books (follow link).

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *