Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language Paperback – 24 August 2010
“With common sense and uncommon wit, O'Conner and Kellerman solve more mysteries than all the Law & Order series combined. Origins of the Specious will teach you why it is OK to bravely split an infinitive, why using "ain't" ain't so bad, and why ending a sentence with a preposition is where it's at.”—David Feldman, author of the Imponderables book series
"Origins of the Specious is a witty and informative guide to the perplexities of the English language. I enjoyed it immensely."—Stephen Miller, author of Conversation: A History of a Declining Art and The Peculiar Life of Sundays
“It's right there on page 51: ‘it's better to be understood than to be correct’—pull that out the next time someone corrects your grandma. This tour de force of our beautifully corrupted language is both. And dull it ain't. If you're planning to buy just one book of etymology this year, you've got it right in your hand.”—Garrison Keillor
"Bestselling word maven O'Conner (Woe Is I) is that rare grammarian who values clear, natural expression over the mindless application of rules.…Proper English, she contends, is what the majority of us say it is (though she can't resist making a traditionalist plea to preserve favored words like “unique” and “ironic” from corruption). Writers will appreciate O'Conner's liberating, common-sense approach to the language, and readers the entertaining sprightliness of her prose."—Publishers Weekly
"Happily fresh…Skillfully drawing on the Oxford English Dictionary and other research tools, the writers always present conversational prose with different kinds of wordplays…An accessible tone and full of information."— Library Journal
About the Author
Stewart Kellerman has been an editor at The New York Times and a foreign correspondent for UPI in Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. He co-authored You Send Me with his wife, Patricia T. O’Conner, and he runs their website and blog at grammarphobia.com. They live in rural Connecticut.
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- Publisher : Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (24 August 2010)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 288 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0812978102
- ISBN-13 : 978-0812978100
- Item Weight : 244 g
- Dimensions : 13.21 x 1.55 x 20.32 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: #654,185 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top review from India
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The book discusses the origins of language's strange rules
and, in some cases, their absurdities.
OÇonner's books should be read by all who love English
and also by those who feel confused by its illogical rules.
I have read 'Woe is I' by the same writer and love it.
Top reviews from other countries
Apparently, everything in English English is wrong or misguided while uS English stands like a proud bastion, the last refuge of the English language.
In general, I have a great admiration for our American cousins; it is a pity this particular one hates England so much.
後の章の紹介は省略するがいずれも現在の英語の語法を、古くはジョンソンの辞書（1755）、ウエブスターの辞書（1828）、新しくはOED、AHD、Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usageを縦横に引用し、著者自身の見解を披露している。本書は
Someday the old meanings of “ironic” and “unique” and the rest will no doubt be lost forever, mere footnotes in the history of English. Perhaps in trying to keep them alive, I’m the one who’s nurturing myths. My mind tells me we can’t save them, but my heart won’t let them go. Like Webster’s dictionary, I’m morocco bound.
という一節で終わる。Like Webster’s dictionary, I’m morocco boundはBing Crosby and Bob Hope主演の古い映画のセリフに由来することは引用句事典で突き止めたが、この文脈ではどう解するのか難しい。ウエブスターのAn American Dictionary of the English Labguage (1828)はモロッコ皮装で、アメリカ辞書史の金字塔と言われるが、内容も装丁も時代的に古めかしくなったことは否めない。「（時代の流れに水を差すようなことを言っていたら）私もウエブスターの辞書と同様の運命をたどることになろう」という意味であろうか。本書はこういった少しひねった文章が随所にある。やさしそうで手ごわい書である。
What I find so interesting about words and word books--especially this one--is how living languages can't be frozen in time. Words that once meant one thing often come to mean something else. Take, for example, three that are currently worming their way into acceptability while driving the word police bonkers. 1. "Hopefully," when positioned at the front of a sentence as a less uppity way of saying "it is to be hoped." 2. "Presently," frequently used to mean "at present" which is wrong but sounds right, rather than "soon" which is right but sounds wrong and 3. The "n't" that's so often missing these days from "I couldn't care less."
Here are some other things a browse through this book may surprise you with:
How and why it came to be that, no matter what Prince Charles says, American English is more English than British English.
That much of the "French" that's invaded English is decidedly faux. For example, go to a shop in Paris and ask for a "brassierre" and what you'll get is a baby's undershirt.
That reducing "Christmas" to "Xmas," isn't a modern day commercial abomination, but goes back at least as far as 1551. And that "try and" has been driving grammarians bonkers for longer than you think. Even Jane Austen used it.
Also: Why "ironic" may be just too sophisticated for its own good...and "unique" is losing its uniqueness...why "till" is correct and "'til" isn't...why there's actually nothing sexist about the word "woman"...how and why baseball writers turned leg cramps into "charley horses"...
And...ta da! All that needless kerfuffle about it being WRONG to split infinitives and WRONG to start sentences with conjunctions and WRONG to end them with prepositions, when it's actually, really and truly NOT WRONG to do any of that. Seems those "rules" trace back to some misguided grammarians way back when who tried to marry the rules of English, which is a Germanic language, to those of Latin, which isn't.
Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. And highly recommended.
That makes it comfortable to read this book. You're not an idiot for using the words and phrases you use. It's nice to be told that you're right, isn't it?
This was a "slow read" for me, because I kept stopping to consider what I was reading. Ordinarily, that frustrates me terribly. Writing should - ordinarily - get out of the way of the story that's being told. But I didn't mind it in this case.
This is a great book for wordsmiths, and not a bad one for serious readers. Probably not that interesting to folks of average or below-average intelligence.