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Obituary: George W. Turner 26 October 1921 — 23 September 2003
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George W. Turner 26 October 1921-23 September 2003 xi OBITUARY George W. Turner 26 October 1921-23 September 2003 In 'Essays in Honour of G. W . Turner' (1988), Ian Reid, one of George Turner's students from N e w Zealand days, wrote about the homogeneity of epitaphs, 'A Register of Deaths?'. Can one, he wondered, 'regard epitaphs as constituting a fairly homogeneous text-type or register'! The same thought occurs to m e in relation to obituaries. Are there essential elements without which an obituary is not an obituary? I also have in mind Dr Johnson's comment on epitaphs that Ian Reid quotes: it ought not to be pardoned for not conforming to good obituary style to talk of George's days as a barefoot farmer's son in Dannevirke, or dwell on hisriseto be Head of Reference at the Public Library in Christchurch, or his move to the University world, or his marriage to Beryl, friend, colleague, supporter and comfort. M y knowledge is of George's middle years at Adelaide when we were colleagues, sole teachers at the University of Adelaide of Old and Middle English language and literature and the History of the Language. Our diary of 1965 tells me, on 29 January, '5pm. Meet Turners at airport' and the following day 'Turners and Colmers to dinner'. And so for m e began one of the most rewarding collaborations of m y life. M y earliest memory of George is his saying that in Australia he expected snakes to be dripping out of every tree. All N e w Zealanders did, he said. There was enough truthful response to a hostile environment in it to make it serious and enough exaggeration to make it funny. Part of the delightful humour that so many have spoken of. At the time I was teaching the modern part of the History of the language course, blessing A. G. Mitchell for his work on Australian pronunciation but rather skirting other elements. George's The English Language in Australia and New Zealand transformed all that. Wide-ranging, detailed, scholarly and a pleasure to read, it was every lecturer's dream support. George had then just returned from the U K where he had been working with Michael Halliday and Randolf Quirk and brought back what to m e were eyeopening insights into the functioning of language. W e spent many lunch hours Xll considering such things as intonation patterns and juncture ('grey-day' - 'Grade A'), and occasionally, Joseph Furphy, a writer I had barely heard of. As Alan Brissenden has written, 'He had the gift of sharing knowledge and inspiring love of scholarship, showing what fun there could be in it'. The linguistic side led to the much reprinted Stylistics published by Penguin; the Furphy side to the editions of Rigbys Romance (1971) and of Such is Life! (1991) in an obviously much enjoyed collaboration. Lexicography was the last of George Turner's published achievements though by no means his latest area of interest. W e both put our names down with enthusiasm for the abortive 'Dictionary of Early Modern English' that Robin Alston planned in the 1960s and George is listed as an 'Outside Consultant' in the 1972 and later O E D Supplements. His revised edition of The Australian Oxford Paperback Dictionary appeared in 1984, and The Australian Oxford Paperback Dictionary (compiled in collaboration with his wife, Beryl) in 1989, and between them came the Concise, the Little and the collaborative Minidictionary. I say 'compiled', but the labour and the care is better expressed by George's remark in the Preface to the second edition of the Pocket that 'a very thorough word by word and point by point revision' has been made. It was not only his outstanding linguistic competence that made him an ideal dictionary maker, but his literary awareness and his humanity. George was elected to the Australia Academy for the Humanities in 1974 and made an Honorary Life M e m b e r of the Australasian Languages and Literature association. H e retired from the University ofAdelaide in 1986 and was appointed Honorary Visiting Research Fellow in 1990. He established the Linguistics...