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2 Comments

  • Of course this is why a corpus is such an essential resource for any kind of writing about language. But how odd that such a distinguished writer of prose and poetry – former poet laureate, no less – should have such a tin ear when it comes to using his own language. Unless he didn’t *really* like the book and his apparently warm words concealed a much more ambivalent attitude…

  • How right you are, Liz. As if to prove the point, I had an idea that the ironic or negative aspect of “getting your just deserts” was equally true of expressions using the collocation “richly deserve”. When I looked at the data, I did find a few cases that supported this hypothesis (e.g. “I am sure the public in West Lothian will treat them with the contempt they so richly deserve”), but a clear majority were like this one: “I am delighted our staff are receiving the recognition they so richly deserve as they work extremely hard to deliver the best results”. In the old days of smaller corpora, you couldn’t always be confident when drawing conclusions from just a few examples. But we have 167 corpus examples that include the string “so richly deserve”, and that’s enough evidence to show very clearly how a phrase like this works.