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I downloaded the Kindle exceerpt of this book and I am glad I didn't pay for it. It is mildly informative and at times amusing but the author's naked hatred of English English and England in general is too blatant to ignore.
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.
書名はおそらくダーウィンのOn the Origin of Species にかけたものであろう。「一見まことしやかなことの起源」という意味で、より具体的には副題Myths and Misconceptions of the English Languageが示すように、「英語の（根拠のない）神話と誤解」を集めて解説した書である。全部で10章あるが、章名も凝っていて、第1章は「不屈の精神」（stiff upper lip）「どうして英国人は我々のようになれないのか」（Why can the British be like us?）で、英語と米語の相違（発音・語彙・スペリングの相違、get の過去分詞got/gottenなど）、第2章「文法のモーセ」（Grammar Moses）「モーセの戒律を忘れよ」(Forget These Commandments)では、「分離不定詞」「文末の前置詞」「文をつなぐand」[noneの単数・複数扱い」「2重否定」「単純形副詞（flat adverb）」「縮約形（contraction）「接続詞のlike」「sneakの過去・過去分詞snuck」「関係代名詞：人にはwho、物事にはthat]「thanの後は目的格」「(a)wakeの過去・過去分詞形」など規範文法の戒律と実態とのずれが論じられている。 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。 現代ではBNC, COCAなどのコーパスを利用することで皮相的な実態調べは比較的容易である。しかし、なぜバリエーションが存在しているのかという深部の理由までわからない。語法をより深く研究する手がかりを得たい人には好適な書である。
Oops! That's not right. Eliza's a Brit so she may have GOT sick of them. But gotten? Nope. Gotten's good on this side of the pond but is not acceptable on hers. Just a little something I learned while reading this marvelous collection of "myths and misconceptions of the English Language."
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.
I love words. This author (Is it OK to call "Patricia T O'Connor" by the nickname "Patio" - as in Pat-T-O?) is a democrat, in the sense that she recognizes that everyone who speaks gets a vote in what English words mean.
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.
This book helps dispel numerous myths about the proper way to use the English language, while also providing entertainment. I've learned a lot, especially about words and grammar that I thought were set in stone but are either flat out wrong, or more flexible than I'd realized. I recommend this book to anyone who could use a humorous, informative guide to quirks of the English language.
There are any number of useful tools which together make up the writer's toolbox. Recently I came across this one, and wanted to give it due credit.
Patricia T. O'Conner is a former editor at The New York Times Book Review. She has written four books on writing other than the above, tomes which I plan soon to add to the room I use upstairs for a book repository (as `library' seems far too sophisticated a term for that multi-purpose junk room).
The essence of this particular book is to confront and vanquish the urban legends surrounding the English language. For example, you'd think that English is related to the Romance languages such as French, Spanish and Italian, what with how liberally we've borrowed from them. However, this is not true. According to Wikipedia, the Romance languages are: all the related languages derived from Vulgar Latin and forming a subgroup of the Italic languages within the Indo-European language family. Which English is not. Our mother tongue is a Germanic language, specifically West Germanic.
This has, over time, become a problem due to those Latin scholars not content to leave well enough alone, and who have over time fought to convert English into a Latin-derived tongue with the persistence of a Jehovah's Witness on one's doorstep. This `square peg into a round hole' determination has resulted in a multitude of neologisms being pushed on us like credit card applications at the local department store.
The book is subdivided into wonderful chapters, such as Stiff Upper Lip: Why Can't the British Be More Like Us and Grammar Moses: Forget Those Commandments. Grammatical urban legends are assaulted with a two-handed sword and swiftly laid to rest. Clumsy `rules' are kidney-punched with quotes like this one: "It is better to be understood than to be correct." And phony foreign words are put down for the count, such as the phrase nom de plume, which is supposed to be French for `pen name' or `pseudonym'. (It's not either, the British made it up) .
This little book from Random House (at just over 200 pages sans notes, acknowledgments, etc.) is a marvel, and should be included on the reference shelf of anyone who writes in the English language.
A version of this review was originally posted at my blog, Slogging Towards Bethlehem.
Funny yet informative text make this a must-have book for anyone interested in speaking and writing English...American English or otherwise. What you think you know about the English language gets turned upside down, and I don’t mean down under. Best book I’ve read since ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves.’
This is a fun book that harpoons many of the pedantic grammar rules that we were presented in school as God-given, received on Mount Sinai. In reality, most were created arbitrarily about 200 years ago by devotees of Latin. For example, Latin had single-word infinitives, so in English we couldn't split our two-word infinitives.