The North American Journal of Welsh Studies “is comprised [sic, tsk] of material originally presented at a conference or event sponsored by the North American Association for the Study of Welsh Culture and History.” The web pages for each issue are HTML (the latest is Winter-Summer 2005), but the individual articles are pdf files. There’s some interesting stuff there, like Grahame Davies, “Beginnings: New Media and the Welsh Language” (pdf); if you read Welsh and are interested in new media, of course, you should bookmark morfa. (Via wood s lot.)


  1. Why sic or tsk? My 1987 RHD gives this as a valid usage.

  2. It’s very common, hence valid from a descriptivist point of view, but “wrong” from a traditional point of view, which requires “the Journal comprises material,” “the Journal is composed of material,” or “material composes the Journal.” To comprise is to take in, embrace; to compose is to make up. I wouldn’t condemn it (or even care about it) in somebody’s blog, or if the Journal took a courageous editorial stance in favor of colloquial writing, but since the Journal favors the usual boring academic style of “correct” writing, I can only conclude the editors who wrote that line are ignorant of the traditional usage, which annoys the copyediting side of me. If I were editing that page, I’d have put a big red mark through the word and added as polite a correction as I could manage in the margin. But of course nothing gets edited any more.

  3. In other words, I hold “official” material — newspapers, journals, books — to a different standard than I do other writing.

  4. I believe that prescriptivist judgement and the consequent editing is mostly North American or US, much like “restrictive that.” Cf. definition 8 c. of “comprise” in your second edition OED, which doesn’t mention any condemnation of it.
    Of course, that doesn’t excuse the North American Journal of Welsh Studies, but it also doesn’t preclude it having been edited, if, perhaps, by someone Welsh.

  5. Ah, good point.

  6. I always fix ‘comprised of’ when I’m copy-editing. For one, it’s completely wrong in my own grammar, and for convenience I use my idiolect as a rule of thumb for Standard English. Second, the writing it’s in is typically confused and turgid, so I’m clarifying by making it unexceptionable.
    There’s nothing wrong with editing towards dicta and conventions for Standard English. Where the prescriptivists go wrong is in claiming that certain of their fictions, such as about split infinitives or stranded prepositions, are part of Standard English.

  7. So, aput, you edit copy according to internal principles that you criticise “presciptivists” [cite please!] for observing. That is, you would change “comprised of” in the mistaken belief that it’s not Standard English, even in a case like this one where the change wouldn’t make it clearer.

  8. Come, come, Aidan, you’re going too far. Your initial point was that it’s acceptable in formal UK English, which is all well and good, but it’s not (so far) in formal US English, and any copy editor worth their salt would correct it. Correctness in this context isn’t about clarity, it’s about conforming to rules of style and usage.

  9. No, my initial point was that changing it seems to be something done in North America without good reason. The first of the OED’s citations in this form–in formal writing–dates from 1794. If you assert that formal UK and US usage had diverged on this matter at that point, I’m going to flatly disagree with you. (Aput’s email address ends in, too, so there’s a good chance that “formal US English” rules don’t apply.)
    The prescriptivist rule of style and usage that eliminates “to be” from that construction is nonsensical. Many copy-editing rules are. Which is sub-optimal–it’s a reflection of the sort of attitude that keeps us with an orthography optimised for dyslexia–but it’s what we deal with in this language.
    Aput seems to want to draw a line separating the copy-editor’s actions in enforcing mistaken, nonsensical beliefs from those of prescriptivists who promote mistaken, nonsensical beliefs, keeping the evil prescriptivists in the other camp. I don’t think that’s an honest thing to do–every time you change text to conform to some rule, your actions are prescriptivist. That’s fine. Every time you enforce a nonsensical rule by reflex, you’re cheering for a prescriptivist who got it wrong. That’s less fine.

  10. A large number of people, myself included, can’t say ‘comprised of’, because it’s ungrammatical in our idiolects. It also doesn’t occur much in standard books; if it did, I’d have absorbed it in my youthful reading as a standard expression. I’m not being prescriptivist, because I’m not saying ‘that’s wrong’, I’m just saying ‘it would sound better this way’. And that, I think, is a perfectly legitimate approach to editing.

  11. Sure, it is absolutely a legitimate approach to editing. I’m just uncomfortable with your claiming it’s not prescriptivist in this case, where the construction doesn’t sound better that way in standard English. And note that I’m not of the school that says “all prescriptivism is bad,” so this isn’t a criticism on that ground.
    Anyway. This is a really minor point, and not worth the argument. Enjoy your weekend!

  12. Thanks for this link. Some interesting stuff there.

  13. Hey, thanks for this (picked it up from Rhodri’s blog). Good to see a piece on David Jones’ The Sleeping Lord, the first thing I read by Jones.

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