Protester holding a sign saying "Liar Johnson puts the 'ROGUE' in 'PRO-ROGUE' at a protest at Th

Putting the ‘rogue’ in ‘prorogue’

By Jack Fifield

Protester holding a sign saying "Liar Johnson put the 'ROGUE' in 'PRO-ROGUE' #StopTheCoup" at the "Stop the Coup" protest next to The Cenotaph, Bristol City Centre
Protester holding a sign at the “Stop the Coup” protest next to The Cenotaph, Bristol City Centre, 31st August 2019
Photo: Jack Fifield

The word ‘prorogue’ has been enjoying its time in the spotlight this week, and many, not least angry protesters, have expertly deduced that the word ‘prorogue’ looks like the words ‘pro rogue’. This begs the question: are these words actually related?

To start my investigation, I turned to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), located at, and I signed in using my UWE Bristol login, just one of the many databases that the University grants access to students from campus or from home.

As an historical dictionary, the OED doesn’t prioritize modern meanings over historical meanings; this can be seen by the fact that the modern UK sense isn’t stated until last in the OED’s entry “b. intransitive. Of a legislative assembly, etc.: to discontinue sittings for a period of time or until the next session.”

As many angry demonstrators holding signs such as “Boris Johnson is a pro rogue” or “Liar Johnson put the ‘ROGUE’ in ‘PRO-ROGUE’” (pictured) over the last few weeks have pointed out, at first glance, the word ‘prorogue’ looks and sounds like a combination of the prefix “pro-” (before something) and the adjective ‘rogue’ (unpredictable, dishonest, etc.).

The “pro” in “prorogue” is not a shortening of “professional”, with the OED confirming that, much more boringly, in this case, it is the prefix discussed above, in the sense of “Forward, onward, in a course or in time”; this leads to the “rogue” part, surely this is just the word “rogue”?!

Going back to Latin via the route of Anglo-Norman and Middle French, we get to rogāre, to ask, according the OED, and we are directed to “see rogation n.”, with multiple senses including the acts of begging and of making a formal request.

Turning to the origin of the word ‘rogue’, the OED tells us that the earliest recorded sense is “An idle vagrant, a vagabond; one of a group or class of such people. Now archaic or historical.”, but admits that the origin is unknown, suggesting that it may be related to “roger n.”, an obsolete word for a beggar pretending to be from Oxford or Cambridge, with the OED telling us that some have suggested that this was actually pronounced like the word “rogue” instead of the name “roger”, but that there is no supporting evidence for any of this, or that the words are even related, and that “an etymological connection with the family of classical Latin rogāre (see rogation n.) is unlikely.”, bringing us full circle.

So, it would seem that, whilst the OED is of the opinion that a connection between ‘prorogue’ and ‘rogue’ is unlikely, there are some similar senses for both words relating to the acts of begging or asking, meaning that there could be some connection along the line. For now, this case remains unsolved.


Writing tip of the week

by Harriet Castor

[Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow]

When writing, think about what you want to say before worrying about how you’re going to say it. It’s often tempting to try to finish a sentence or paragraph by asking yourself, ‘What will sound good here?’ But that doesn’t get good results! Instead, ask yourself, ‘What do I want to say?’ or ‘What point am I making?’

Clear thinking makes for clear writing, and clear writing is much more effective than any number of fancy phrases. Also, if you make sure you know what idea or information you want to put across before you start worrying about which words or phrases to use, the whole task of finding those words and phrases becomes much easier.

If you’d like to book a confidential one-to-one session with me to work on your writing skills, please email
I’m at Frenchay on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Summer reading -UPDATED 6.8.2014

by Jeanette Sakel

I know you’ve probably got other things to do (like lying on the beach, sipping cool drinks and meeting up with friends), but if you would like to read a bit about the stuff you’ll be doing next year, here are lists of suggested reading. Please note that this post will be added to as and when I hear back from colleagues.

Please note: this is not the ‘ultimate’ list yet, and changes may very well occur. Yet, for summer reading, this list is perfect and should keep you occupied for a while 🙂


Incoming students, Level 1


  • Yule The study of languageLINK
  • Jones, R. H. (2012) Discourse Analysis. London: Routledge
  • Kress, G. R., &  Van Leeuwen, T. (2006) Reading images: the grammar of visual design. London: Routledge
  • Pullum. 2005. A student’s introduction to English grammar. Cambridge: CUP.

Those on English Language and Linguistics (additional texts):

  • Sakel & Everett Linguistic Fieldwork Cambridge University Press: LINK
  • Meyerhoff, M Introducing Sociolinguistics: LINK
  • recommended: R. Lieber Introducing Morphology CUP: LINK
  • recommended: R. Coates Word Structure: LINK
  • Baker, P. (2009) Contemporary Corpus Linguistics. London: Continuum
  • Coulthard, M. and  Johnson, A. (2007) An Introduction to Forensic Linguistics: Language in Evidence, Oxford, Routledge
  • Ashby, Patricia. 2011. Understanding phonetics. London: Hodder.
  • Yule, George. 2008. Pragmatics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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Finding employment after your degree

by Jeanette Sakel

For a few years now, we have been very targeted in preparing our students for their graduate employability. And the work seems to be paying off. Here UWE’s English Language and Linguistics degree is features on ITV news – with our own Sandeep Sond (soon to be graduate in English Language and Linguistics) talking about getting a graduate-level job upon graduation. Well done, Sandee!

Writing tip of the week

by Harriet Castor

There are plenty of great resources online that can help you with problems or questions you may have about writing essays and dissertations. One example is the part of the Royal Literary Fund’s website that’s called ‘Writing Essays: A Guide’. It includes sections on ‘Planning and Structure’, ‘Drafting and Editing’ and ‘Making an Argument’ (amongst others). You can find them all here:

There are also other study skills resources on the website (including a separate section on dissertations), which you can find here:

For a confidential one-to-one session with me to work on your writing skills, email

I’m at Frenchay on Wednesdays and St Matthias on Thursdays.

Assessment: how to do well

by Jeanette Sakel

With the end of the term looming and the assessment period to begin just after Easter, I thought it would be a good idea to share a draft chapter from one of my new books on Assessment – how to do well. It is the first draft of this chapter for the book Study Skills for Linguistics, which will be published by Routledge in the Understanding Language series (most likely in early 2015). It’s quite a short chapter (8 single-space or 11 1.5-spaced pages), but it’s packed full of information on small things you can implement to do well.

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Student rep and student-led teaching awards

by Jeanette Sakel

Congratulations Jens Branum (level 3) for winning this year’s student experience impact award – a very well deserved recognition of his work both in the rep system, as well as in other areas of the Programme over the last (almost) three years. Further nominations went to Emily Duignan and Victoria Mercer (who was shortlisted for the student rep award).

On top of that, most of the lecturers in English Language and Linguistics received nominations from our students (a total of eight nominations!), and quite a few of us made the shortlist of the student rep and student-led teaching awards.

Well done English Language and Linguistics at UWE Bristol!

Writing tip of the week

by Harriet Castor

Last week’s writing tip looked at semi-colons, and how they are used to join two whole sentences together (when the meaning of those two sentences is closely related).

You can also use semi-colons to separate items in a list. Here’s how this works.

With many lists you don’t need semi-colons, since commas are perfectly adequate for separating the items. Here’s an example:

There were three bears: a brown one, a red one and a yellow one. Continue reading

George Michael wakes from coma with a Bristol accent

by Richard Coates

Somebody must have noticed this headline in The Post for 5 March 2014, nicked from the Daily Mail, apparently. No? Well, it happened in 2011, so it’s old news, but the article does say that George (never embarrassed in his life about anything, of course) was so unhappy about the discovery that he vowed to give up dope for life. The Post wheels out for a comment Mr Gareth Chilcott (ex-Bath rugby star), who says: “He shouldn’t be embarrassed about speaking in a Bristolian accent. He should be more embarrassed about smoking cannabis at all. [Yeah, well.] I am a great advocate of the Bristolian accent. In fact it should be compulsory. There should be a law that every hour on television there should be a Bristol accent, so we can educate people.” Can I join you in the real world, Gaz?

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