On 7 January 2021, Jan Blommaert died aged 59, after a ten-month battle with cancer. He was an extraordinary person and a brilliant academic, and there have been a great many very moving personal accounts of how much Jan meant to the people he interacted with. I knew and worked with him for over twenty-five years, and during his protracted illness, for me and for a lot of others, it was good to be able to tell him directly how much I owed him. But beyond the warm, hospitable, humorous and hugely energising individual we knew, Jan was profoundly committed to—indeed lived—a programme of sociolinguistics that he often traced to the writings of Dell Hymes, the founder of Language in Society. A number of this programme's core elements were spelled out in the introduction to Hymes’ ground-breaking 1969 collection, Reinventing Anthropology, a ‘book… for people for whom “the way things are” is not reason enough for the ways things are, who find fundamental questions pertinent and in need of personal answer’ (1969:7). For my account of the value and vitality that Jan brought to sociolinguistics, I have borrowed from the title of Hymes’ introduction, ‘The use of anthropology: Critical, political, personal’ and, as well as citing some of Jan's own words, I also draw on the reflections of others as evidence of the vigour, clarity, and coherence with which he articulated a practice and purpose for work on language in society.