Thanks to numerous anecdotes about the old and new ways of the lexicography, I quite enjoyed The Word Detective: Searching for the Meaning of it All at the Oxford English Dictionary, the memoir of John Simpson, former Chief Editor. Simpson was a participant and prime mover in the huge changes to the OED, which saw the dictionary finally being produced, "from the computer database, not from copper plates." Because of the unique insights into the most important and impressive dictionary in English, this is a book any word lover should enjoy. Continue reading...
The spells are quite witty, but they aren't the only examples of wordplay in the Harry Potter universe. In the Potter novels J. K. Rowling uses vocabulary that has made her characters living creatures to generations of readers. This tradition continues in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Continue reading...
Garner's Modern English Usage, which just released its fourth edition, is potentially a damn useful thing to me. And after looking through Bryan A. Garner's latest, I can report that the potential is realized: this is an extremely useful and sensible guide. I don't know if I would sleep with it under my pillow, but I won't keep it far from my desk. Continue reading...
Topics: Books Language Usage
Do you like sowing your wild oaks? Do you sometimes feel like a social leopard? Could you use a new leaf on life? Or do you just enjoy the infinite creativity of the English language, even when people make mistakes? If you answered yes to any of the above, you need to check out Robert Alden Rubin's terrific new book Going to Hell in a Hen Basket: An Illustrated Dictionary of Modern Malapropisms. Continue reading...
Topics: Usage Books Language
This week's publication of Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee's long-dormant sequel of sorts to To Kill a Mockingbird, has gotten a tune running through my head: "Go Tell Aunt Rhody." Two titles, same number of syllables, and the same syntactic structure, right down to the use of go plus another verb right next to it. But how do both those verbs fit into the place where just one verb should go? Continue reading...
I've just finished reading Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility—not for the first time, probably for the fourth or fifth time. I started reading her when I was a teenager and I try to re-read one of her novels every year. They never disappoint, and at each stage of my life, I find new facets to explore in her analysis of human nature and relations, and in her unparalleled mastery of the expressiveness of English. Continue reading...
Topics: Books Language Words
Have you ever struggled to explain a nuclear meltdown caused by an incredibly stupid mistake? You would have been grateful for alternative terms, such as "a core rearrangement caused by an ill-advised learning opportunity." You can find these terms and more in Spinglish: The Definitive Dictionary of Deliberately Deceitful Language. Continue reading...
Topics: Usage Books Language
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