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QES: RIP

[3 June 2012] The Queen’s English Society, founded 40 years ago, is on the edge of extinction after a special general meeting failed to receive a single nomination from its ageing 560-strong membership for the posts of chair, vice-chair, administrator, web master, and membership secretary. 



The QES describes its role thus: ‘The Society campaigns to encourage high standards of written and spoken English, which have been found to be lamentably low among school-leavers and even university graduates. One of its principal campaigns is for better and explicit English language education and regular constructive correction of errors in English language in schools.’ (www.queens-english-society.com) 



Rhea Williams, QES chair, said the society will soon publish a final issue of its newsletter, Quest, ‘then all activity will cease and the society will be wound up’ on 30 June.



The QES is sometimes seen as pedantic and snobbish – partly because its name suggests that English belongs to HM the Queen – and has come in for biting criticism from such people as the Anti-Queen’s English Society (antiqueensenglishsociety.com/). 

But the QES says it’s not against linguistic change: ‘[O]ur language will always continue to evolve just as it has done through the ages. We would, however, comment on any alterations to the language that are felt to be not in keeping with clarity and elegance in written or spoken English.’ 



The society’s troubles follow the recent demise of its offshoot, the Academy of Contemporary English, which aimed to ‘provide a literacy lifeline for Everyman, a self-help Academy for any aspirant seeking to improve knowledge and understanding of our noble English tongue’. The academy was founded by Martin Estinel, but his sudden death in November last year left the project rudderless. 



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