Sunday, 14 September 2014

Grammar Part 2: And Rightly So!

And rightly so! As people have become so fond of saying in the last 10 years – or so. Why? It’s so pompous and Victorian. What’s wrong with “and rightly”?

“So” means “thus”, or “like that”, and needs an adjective or adjectival clause to refer back to, for example:

Herat, in western Afghanistan, is one destination in that tragic country that is still safe, or relatively so. (William Dalrymple, FT,  Dec 10 2010)
A classic science fiction novel, and justifiably so. (25 Nov 2000)
Gaudy, but authentically so. (Jonathan Foyle)
Blowy winds, particularly so across the southwest. (Carol Kirkland on BBC Breakfast 2013-02-04)
America is actually really expensive and a lot of other places are much less so. (

Not wrong, but awkward:
Marriage is in a state of flux as a result of cultural changes, and inevitably so. (Guardian November 9, 2010) ...and this is inevitable.


There has been widespread criticism of this, and rightly so. (

You wouldn’t write: “There has rightly so been widespread criticism...”, you’d write: “There has – rightly – been widespread criticism...” So, end your sentence “and rightly”.

Defence spending will fall - and rightly so. (New Statesman)
George Osborne blames the voters. And rightly so. (Telegraph Blogs)
S. Hawking challenged... and rightly so. (
When I was starting out, my work was savaged. Rightfully so. (Linkedin commenter)
The awards are already piling up for The King’s Speech, and rightly so. Times Jan 7 11
There are a lot of laws to protect the rhino these days – and quite rightly so. (Antiques Roadshow)
The show that made Roger Moore a star and rightly so. (imdb comment)
I know this is almost everyone’s favourite book – but rightly so. (Johnnie Boden, The Week)

“Quite rightly” would do for all of these.

Her paper seems to be being ignored by anti-sex work and anti-adult industry feminists. Unsurprisingly so. (

How about putting “unsurprisingly” at the top of the sentence? Can we not start a sentence with an adverb? Or it could end “This is not surprising.” Or even “Are you surprised?” (And isn’t “adult industry” a great euphemism?)

Hislop played up to his persona, but funnily so… (Guardian September 6, 2011)
They thought we weren’t going to solve it. And quite understandably so. (The Perfect Murder)
Urine is urine? Undeniably so. (NS Feb 2012).
He was a hero of science. Undoubtedly so!
Sage bushes will make a 3ft mound, but weakly so. (Times April 2013)

This is your reward, and deservedly so. ( ...and you deserve it.
The green leaves of beetroot often overlooked, but undeservedly so. (Times May 24 2014) ...often undeservedly overlooked.

While I never find Miss Marple annoying, I do find Miss Silver so.
While I never find Miss Marple annoying, Miss Silver irritates me.

Kentucky has a higher teen-motherhood rate than the national average, but not radically so. (National Review, Dec 2013)
Kentucky’s teen-motherhood rate is higher than the national average, but not radically so.OR:
Kentucky has a higher teen-motherhood rate than the national average, but the difference is small.

Prince William is a model of discretion these days – but as a child, he was rather less so. (The Week) ...he was rather less tactful.

Campion himself is rather recessive, but then as I recall it he is rather so in Allingham's later work as well. (Passing Tramp) ...he is fairly retiring.

Even [the police] were bored and so when something came along that looked like trouble it was made to be so. (LRB July 2013) was turned into a problem.


He gave his opinion that the office of monarch, once abolished, should stay so. (Wikipedia)
...the office of monarch, once abolished, should stay abolished.
(Writers are terrified of repetition – but we have nothing to fear but fear itself.)

There is no such thing as the unconscious mind; there is brain activity that is not represented in consciousness or only partially so. (Michael Heap)
There is no such thing as the unconscious mind; there is brain activity that is not represented in consciousness – or is represented only partially.


We are a country moving forward and will go on being so. (Julia Gillard)
We will go on being one.

Those teaching children religion never see it as indoctrination, but if they taught political ideology in the same way it would be seen as so. (Noel McGivern ‏@Good_Beard) would be seen as such.
More grammar here.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Singing in the Shrouds by Ngaio Marsh

Singing in the Shrouds has a "lifeboat" plot: some disparate characters are sailing to South Africa as passengers on a cargo boat. It was published in 1958.

Among those present are:

Mrs Dillington Blick, a large but beautiful divorcee of about 40. I see her played by Diana Dors.
Mr and Mrs Cuddy, who are aggressively lower middle-class.
The hard-drinking captain.
Miss Abbott, an expert on early church music who is broken-hearted because her best friend has got engaged.
Aubyn Dale, a David Frost-like character who fronts a confessional TV show. He also has a drink problem and an oily professional manner, but he's not all bad, even if he does advertise ladies' swimwear.
Dennis, an endearing gay steward.
Tim Makepeace, the ship's doctor, an upstanding young man who falls for...
Jemima Carmichael, who is on the cruise to forget that she has been stood up at the altar.
Mr Merryman, a retired schoolteacher.
Father Jourdain, a high church monk and priest.
Donald McAngus, an eccentric elderly Scotsman.  


Roderick Alleyn, under cover in search of the "flower murderer", who may be aboard.

The "flower murderer" has strangled several girls at ten-day intervals, and strewn their bodies with crushed flowers and broken necklaces. The action plays out over several days as they travel to the tropics. The various characters reveal more about themselves (I believe this is known as "character development") as Alleyn tries to steer the conversation towards what they were all doing on the night of the murders - particularly the last, which took place the night they sailed. The flower murderer sings as he kills - but his voice could be a man's or a woman's.

The story starts on the bus transporting the passengers to the docks – they all reveal their characters in various ways. Father Jourdain chats to a fellow brother who has come to see him off, Mrs D-B discusses the other passengers with a friend ("My dear!"). Miss Abbott catches up on the murders in Mr Merryman's newspaper and he tetchily requests her to stop reading over his shoulder. Tim points out places of interest to Jemima.

Once on board, both the captain and Dale fall for Mrs Dillington Blick; Mr Merryman is inclined to get cross about pedantic points (he hates the "tele-viz-ee-on"); Father Jourdain tries to keep the peace. We enjoy the cruise with everybody as they give cocktail parties, stop off in the Canary Islands and rig up a swimming pool on deck.

But then a broken doll is found - strangled with a string of beads. Alleyn takes several of the men into his confidence (after they've established alibis). The captain is already in the know, but refuses to believe there's a murderer aboard. Father Jourdain and Tim Makepeace agree to make sure the ladies are never alone. Mrs D-B is delighted to find herself shadowed by some bloke wherever she goes. Her nickname for Alleyn is "the gorgeous brute".

But they fail to prevent the next murder - and the reveal of the killer's identity is quite dramatic. Less convincing is the Freudian explanation for his actions. I prefer Father Jourdain's (sin).

And yes, social attitudes are of their time. Society was becoming more accepting, but homosexuality was treated rather nervously as a joke. (The law was not relaxed until 1967.) Both Marsh and the characters laugh at Dennis and Miss Abbott. The Cuddies, also, are turned into grotesques, with their tales of masonic lodges and each other's ailments. They even call each other "dear"!

But this is an enjoyable book, and a time-capsule of the late 50s.

More on Ngaio Marsh here, and links to the rest.

Was Marsh a snob?