"Cheerfully and incorrigibly serving a life sentence"
, Eric Partridge, describing his lot as an addict of the English language.
Eric Partridge was born on February 6th 1894 on a farm near Gisborne, North Island, New Zealand. At the age of 11 he and his family moved to Brisbane, Australia where he spent the rest of his schooldays. Partridge received a scholarship to the University of Queensland where he studied first Classics and then French and English. His studies were interrupted by the Great War, during which time he served with the Australian infantry, and he finally received his BA in 1921. In that same year Partridge was made a Queensland Travelling Fellow and went to Oxford where he worked on both an MA on eighteenth-century English romantic poetry, and a BLitt in comparative literature.
On leaving Oxford Partridge taught in a grammar school in Lancashire for a brief period of time before taking up short appointments at the Universities of Manchester (1925-6) and London (1926-7). In 1927 Partridge gave up his academic career and founded the Scholartis Press which he directed until the economic depression of the time forced it to close in 1931. During this period he edited several volumes and wrote three novels (under the pseudonym of Corrie Denison).
It was after the closure of Scholartis Press that Partridge's career as a freelance 'man of letters' really took off. His first major work on slang, Slang Today and Yesterday was published in London (by Routledge) in1933 (and in the US by Macmillan, 1934), with the first edition of the larger 'flagship' slang title
A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English
appearing in 1937 (Routledge). His 'fairly successful attempt to up-stage Fowler' (Randolph Quirk), Usage and Abusage:
A Guide to Good English
was published in New York by Harper, 1942, and in London by Hamilton in 1947.
Partridge served with the Army Education Corps and later with the correspondence department of the RAF during the Second World War, resuming his work (back at his desk, K1, at the British Museum Library - something of a second home to him) in 1945.
Partridge's output was prolific (
see Partridge Bibliography
) and he continued his work and research into his eighties;
A Dictionary of Catch Phrases
(Routledge, London), his last major project, was published in 1977, just two years before his death.