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The Big Book of Beastly Mispronunciations: The Complete Opinionated Guide for the Careful Speaker Paperback – Jan 25 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Second Edition edition (Jan. 25 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 061842315X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618423156
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 635 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #950,264 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

From Amazon

"When it comes to pronunciation," says Charles Harrington Elster, "there are two types of people: Those who don't give the subject a second thought and those who do. This book is for those who do." Those who don't will likely dismiss it as a conglomeration of minutiae (mi-N[Y]oo-shee-ee). Elster's Big Book of Beastly Mispronunciations combines and expands upon his two previous books on the subject, offering historical pronunciations, authoritative opinions (his own and others'), and meandering explanations. This book is more entertaining than a game of badminton (don't say, "BAD-mitten," which Elster considers sloppy) and more lasting than a daiquiri (that's "DY-kuh-ree"). And best of all, you'll tighten up that flaccid ("FLAK-sid") pronunciation. Kudos ("KOO-dahs") to Elster for setting us straight. For now, anyway--there's a neologism ("nee-AHL-uh-jiz'm") born every day. --Jane Steinberg --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Contending that a laissez-faire ("rhymes with guess way there") approach to English language pronunciation is not acceptable, this appealing guide awakens readers to the sad truth that "lots of people mispronounce words every day and plenty of people notice." Host of National Public Radio's A Way with Words, Elster has expanded and extensively revised his three previous books--including There's No Zoo in Zoology--into one delightful pronunciation guide that is not just for the cognoscenti ("KAHN-yuh-SHEN-tee"). The list of words ranges from "a"--"uh (as in ago)" or "ay (as in ate)"--to "zydeco"("rhymes with try to go"), but Elster goes way beyond a simple list of correct pronunciations. His explanatory essays refer to a wide array of research and reference tools, including dictionaries, etymologies, and such guides as the NBC Handbook of Pronunciation. Some may dismiss Elster's efforts as Sisyphean ("SIS-uh-FEE-in") or his compilation too anal ("AY-nal"). But he presents his entries with such aplomb (the second syllable "rhymes with Tom or bomb") and affection for the double entendre ("DUHB'L ahn-THAN-druh") that one cannot demur ("Pronounce mur as in murder not mural").
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By "abalzak" on Aug. 19 2001
Format: Paperback
Elster could be a blow-hard. He could be a nauseating pedant. Instead, he's the charmingly gnomish author of this magnificently entertaining book. Like many of us, he had a mother who would pin his ears to the wall if he dared confuse who with whom. And this guy's mom knew that "flaccid" is pronounced "Flak-sid", did you? Or how's this: try ordering a "daiquiri" (Dy-kuh-ree). Good luck; but of course you'll be correct. This very BIG book of "beastly" mispronunciations is gleefully entertaining. You won't just get the correct pronunciations, but concise reasoning on why a word crept into the language, why it should be tossed out, who corrupted it, and why we tend to garble nuclear (N(Y)oo-kle-ur), while clinging to the "psuedo-French"- ified envelope (AHN-vul-lohp). This could be nothing more than a pesky book, but Elster is so passionate about the Language, and so wildly fun that it's just great reading-- if not terminally humbling. Three distinct groups deserve this gift: Post-modernists who will turn away in horror (then read it on the sly), people who speak English, and those who find in words the delicate beauty of a very good opera-- when sung correctly.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie M Deter on Feb. 14 2001
Format: Paperback
Admit it: from time to time, we all like to use a ten dollar word to demonstrate our mastery of the English language. As President W. Bush can attest, however, nothing's more embarrassing at such moments than discovering you've just mispronounced the word.
To our rescue comes Charles Harrington Elster, an expert in the ways of saying words correctly. In "The Big Book of Beastly Mispronunciations," he provides not only an almost exhaustive list of frequently mispronounced words, but clear and entertaining explanations and arguments of why his pronunciation is correct.
Elster has carefully researched each word, providing evidence from dictionaries, usage in broadcast media, and historical linguistics to explain why a word ought to be said in a certain way.
Elster is someone who cares about the English language. The role of language is to communicate, and communication is impossible if we cannot understand one another. Thus, common pronunciation of words is significant.
On the whole, Elster prefers pronunciations that have history and permanence. Many arguments for words I thought I'd been saying all along were clearly presented with his preferred pronunciation in my dictionary. He does concede in some cases that a common mispronunciation of a word has become correct, by sheer weight of usage. He also is careful to note pronunciations that differ between British and American English. He also provides the correct pronunciation of some names and places.
As someone who shares Elster's love of the language, I recommend this book highly. It's one of my most-used reference books, and not just because it's stored in the guest bathroom.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Susanna Hutcheson on April 18 1999
Format: Paperback
If you care about how you sound and the way you come across to other people, you'll want this book. It's a reference you'll want in whatever room you're in. You'll discover everyday words that are being mispronounced by newscasters and, more likely, by you. At least I did. And I'm a writer who prides herself on knowing words well! This book is for the American. It gives American pronounciation that is accepted by the educated class. It disdains words that are used for effect. And if a word is right in the UK but not America it will tell you so. Words like Missouri, Vase, the days of the week, yesterday, rather, begin and hundreds more are explained. You will learn the background on the usage. You will learn how to correctly pronounce February. Now that's a challenge! This is a terrific book and I highly recommend it. If I could give it more than five stars I would! Buy it!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 27 2000
Format: Paperback
I couldn't disagree more with the first reviewer from San Fran. Few disagree with standards for spelling, grammar, or definitions; why should pronunciation be any different? I don't agree with all of Elster's prescriptions, (yes, it is prescriptive-- is Webster's not?) but he gives well-presented reasons for all of his conclusions and admits when he's just being arbitrary. Just like bad spelling, improper speaking does and should separate the careful from the cloddish. The author openly says the book is intended as a guide to American pronunciation, so Brits and Cans need not be offended (e.g. it doesn't necessarily matter how Newfoundlanders pronounce Newfoundland-- they don't speak American English). Of course for those of the, "make a mistake often enough and it becomes correct" school of thought, it will be of no use.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 7 1999
Format: Paperback
I opened this book first to the entry "pronounciation". The author wondered if I said it this way (I did). He then pointed out that there was no such word! Egad, he caught me! Although there is a word "pronounce", there is no word "pronounciation". The word is proNUNciation, not proNOUNciation. I suppose this could be considered a trivial difference, and many of the pronunciations in this book are somewhat of this nature. But the book is a quick read and always interesting. I for one found I was making many of these type mistakes.
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