The English language

View previous topic View next topic Go down

The English language

Post  eddie on Sun May 29, 2011 10:24 pm

Think Kylie is a singer? If so, you're no snoot

As two new fascinating books illustrate, language obsessives have been with us since the 16th century

Robert McCrum The Observer, Sunday 29 May 2011


David Andrews’s book of words and phrases ‘may well become an indispensable weapon in the armoury of the Scrabbler’. Photograph: Alamy

Do you get a secret thrill from knowing that eclecsis means "a compilation from various sources", or feel a twinge of superiority in the precise use of "hone" not "home"? And were you pleased to hear President Obama, last week, saying "orient" where many people would say "orientate"?

If you are not a professional subeditor and paid to fret about such matters, and your answer to any of the above is stronger than a definite maybe, then you are what Lynne Truss calls a "stickler" and the late David Foster Wallace a "snoot" (for Syntax Nudniks Of Our Time). You will also be interested in two books that recently landed on my desk, The English Wordsmith by David W Andrews and Crooked Talk by Jonathon Green.

For as long as there has been a recognisable language, the colour, texture and everyday use of English has inspired the kind of devotion that lies north of obsession but south of idolatry. As early as 1531, some logomane (I just made that up) published a glossary of criminal slang entitled Hye-Way to the Spittel House. The Elizabethan writer Robert Greene, who may have been the model for Falstaff, a "man of fire-new words", launched A Notable Discovery of Coosnage, his "coney-catching pamphlet" in 1591. The prototype for an English dictionary, compiled by Robert Cawdrey, appeared in 1604 entitled A Table Alphabeticall "…of hard usual English words… for the benefit & help of ladies, gentlewomen, or any other unskilful persons". Dr Johnson's lexicographical milestone was still about 150 years away, but the rising bourgeoisie was developing its well-known anxiety, in a class society, about proper English, the right word in the right context.

David Andrews was a lawyer who knew "who" from "whom", and "less" from "fewer". Before his untimely death in 2010, he devoted all his leisure hours to collecting "important, relevant, obscure, difficult, unusual words and phrases" in celebration of the richness and versatility of the language. His friends have now published his "Lexical Eclecsis" in a strangely appealing amateur volume (The English Wordsmith) that may well become an indispensable weapon in the armoury of the Scrabbler, quiz or crossword buff: from Aa (Hawaiian, "lava"); to udal ("freehold land in Orkney"); and zikr ("dervishes' circular dance").

Andrews was the kind of man who wanted to record that a kylie is "a boomerang", a miff is "a small quarrel" and ochlocracy another term for "mob rule". He was also a snoot, "an extreme usage fanatic", defined as somebody who knows what dysphemism means and doesn't mind letting you know it. Andrews cheerfully dismisses any critics of his work as zweite gesellschaft ("second-rate people").

Zweite gesellschaft are indispensable to Jonathon Green. He could hardly get out of bed in the morning without the lexical detritus of society's lower depths. The true heir to the great Eric (Usage and Abusage) Partridge, the pioneer of contemporary slang scholarship, Green revels in crooks, conmen, tarts and frauds. He does back slang (nammow for "woman"); rhyming slang (Jane Shore for "whore"); gay slang (Betty Blue for "policeman") and buzz words, the street vocabulary of the pickpocket, master of the art of "dipology". Green's view of our language is just as eclectic as Andrews's but less judgmental. His tour of the criminal underworld reinforces at least one truth about English, viz that it evolves from the bottom up, on the lips of ordinary people in everyday conversation.

Green also knows that English is a magpie when it comes to shiny new coinages. Crooked Talk celebrates the innovations of 500 years while at the same time reminding the reader that pig for "policeman" dates to the 18th century and bilker for a "habitual cheat" to the 17th. Unlike Andrews, he possesses not an ounce of snoot, and displays a delightful sympathy for the underdog, the loser and the fallen woman, while bursting with quiz-worthy revelations. I did not know, for instance, that a Puff Daddy is a pimp whose girls specialise in oral sex. Students of l'affaire DSK may be glad to know that in Restoration London "a French date" guaranteed exactly what, allegedly, he was after.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 60
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: The English language

Post  eddie on Sun Jun 12, 2011 12:12 am



A guide to the use and abuse of the English language. It provides advice about the linguistic blunders and barbarities that lie in wait for us, from danglers, four-letter words to jargon and even Welsh rarebit. It is suitable for those who care about how the English language is used.

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 60
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: The English language

Post  eddie on Sun Jun 12, 2011 12:14 am



Makes an impassioned case for an end to the sloppiness that has become such a hallmark of everyday speech and writing. This title shows how accuracy and clarity are within the grasp of anyone who is prepared to take the time to master a few simple rules.

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 60
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: The English language

Post  eddie on Sun Jun 12, 2011 12:15 am



The third edition of 'Fowler's Modern English Usage' 1996 provided a complete revision and an expansion of the original text, bringing the book fully up to date on all matters of grammar, usage, syntax and style. This is a reissue of the revised third edition of 1998, which includes a new Supplement and revised entries.

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 60
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: The English language

Post  eddie on Sun Jun 12, 2011 12:18 am



Moves chronologically to explore the most persistent issues to do with the English language, detailing the history of its 'proper' usage along the way. Filled with such intriguing figures as Jonathan Swift and George Orwell as well as the more contrasting characters of Lewis Carroll, Lenny Bruce and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this is required reading for anyone interested in the English language's condition today or intrigued about its future.

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 60
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: The English language

Post  eddie on Sun Jun 12, 2011 12:20 am



Synopsis

A compendium that includes three of the author's acclaimed books about language - "The Wonder of Whiffling", "The Meaning of Tingo" and "Toujours Tingo".

Trade review

A bumper volume gathering together Adam Jacot de Boinod's three acclaimed books about language: "The Wonder Of Whiffling, The Meaning Of Tingo" and "Toujours Tingo". 'Absolutely delicious...A very funny book no well-stocked bookshelf, cistern-top or handbag should be without' Stephen Fry.

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 60
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: The English language

Post  eddie on Sun Jun 12, 2011 12:23 am



Wiki:

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation is a non-fiction book written by Lynne Truss, the former host of the BBC Radio 4's Cutting a Dash programme. In the book, published in 2003, Truss bemoans the state of punctuation in the United Kingdom and the United States and describes how rules are being relaxed in today's society. Her goal is to remind readers of the importance of punctuation in the English language by mixing humour and instruction.

Truss dedicates the book "to the memory of the striking Bolshevik printers of St. Petersburg who, in 1905, demanded to be paid the same rate for punctuation marks as for letters, and thereby directly precipitated the first Russian Revolution."


eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 60
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: The English language

Post  Sponsored content Today at 7:38 am


Sponsored content


Back to top Go down

View previous topic View next topic Back to top

- Similar topics

 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum