I’m currently working on a British English editing job for a
The trouble is that after 30 pages of dubious English, you begin to doubt your own instincts. For example:
- Is it okay to use “orchestration” when you’re not talking about music or some massive multi-person heist?
- Once and for all, is it
- I already know that UK English speakers use “orientated” much more frequently than North Americans, but is it preferred to the extent that I should replace “oriented” with its regularized British counterpart?
That’s where the British National Corpus comes in.
The British National Corpus (BNC) is a 100 million word collection of samples of written and spoken language from a wide range of sources, designed to represent a wide cross-section of current British English, both spoken and written.
In other words, instead of driving your English boyfriend crazy with questions on normativity, you can query the hive mind:
- The proposed meaning of “orchestration”, as used in the glossy I was editing, showed up exactly NOWHERE in the Corpus. I composed a list of alternatives and left it to the client to decide.
- The proper English term for that big island off the coast of
is Spain Majorca. But I’ve heard the double-ll Catalan/Spanish designation of Mallorcaused by British friends so frequently that I had to check which was the most current. The BNC cleared up the confusion: 28 instances of Mallorca, out of 100 million words; 139 uses of Majorca.
- All those times I’ve seen “orientated” used in the English press, and been supremely freaked out by it, were ameliorated by the results I got when I compared it to “oriented” on the Corpus: “orientated” showed up half as much.
So here it is, y’alls: the big, bad BNC. You can use the new link on the list of References to the right from now on.
I won’t tell you exactly how few uses I found of obligated, so you can enjoy the moment for yourself.