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Troublesome Words Paperback – Oct 27 2009
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It is nearly 20 years since Bill Bryson first penned his deliciously witty paean to precision Troublesome Words. Now he has revised it and 60 per cent of the content is new so it's well worth another browse and a place on the desk corner of anyone who likes words and who wants to get things right.
Once a sub-editor at The Times, Bryson is irresistibly drawn to knowing that "to flaunt" means to display ostentatiously but "to flout" means to treat with contempt. Or that a straitjacket may be straight but its name means that its occupant is confined and restricted--in straitened circumstances, perhaps. And can you explain the difference between a Creole and a Pidgin or between egoism and egotism? If not consult Bryson. Then you'll be able to. There's no pedantry or pomposity in Bryson's writing. But he argues: "Just as we all agree that clarity is better served if 'cup' represents a drinking vessel and 'cap' something you put on your head, so too I think the world is a fractionally better place if we agree to preserve a distinction between 'its' and 'it's', between 'I lay down the law' and 'I lie down to sleep', between 'imply' and 'infer' and countless others."
Bryson modestly jokes that this alphabetically arranged book could be subtitled "Even More Things in English Usage That the Author Wasn't Entirely Clear about Until Quite Recently". If only most of us were sure about a fraction of the things Bryson clearly understands very well we might all be more effective writers and speakers. --Susan Elkin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Bestselling author Bryson's latest book is really his first: this guide to usage, spelling and grammar was first published in 1983 when Bryson (In a Sunburned Country, etc.) was an unknown copyeditor at the London Times, and has now been revised and updated for use in the U.S. Alphabetically arranged entries include commonly misspelled and misused words. He also includes common problems with grammar, as well as an appendix on punctuation. Bryson often cites the 1983 edition of H.W. Fowler's A Dictionary of Modern English Usage as an authority, though he also makes a handful of references to recent texts, such as the Encarta World English Dictionary and Atlantic Monthly columnist Barbara Wallraff's "Word Court." Despite the revisions, the book often betrays its origins as a British text, as in citing words in common usage throughout the U.K. and British Commonwealth, but rarely used by American writers, such as Taoiseach, the Prime Minister of Ireland or City of London vs. city of London. In addition, Bryson avoids taking on computer lingo, such as distinguishing between the Internet and the World Wide Web. Despite these shortcomings, Bryson's erudition is evident and refreshing. His passage on split infinitives, for example, asserts that it is "a rhetorical fault a question of style and not a grammatical one." Readers looking for the author's trademark humor will not find it here. Instead they will find a straightforward, concise, utilitarian guide, albeit one listing Bryson's "suggestions, observations, and even treasured prejudices" on newspaper writing primarily in Britain, circa 1983.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
For most of us non-Grammarians whose English is instinctive rather than based on intimate knowledge of linguistic rules, trying to improve our English by reading books in grammar or English usage can be quite an ordeal, as most of them are dry and technical. Bill Bryson's book is slim (192 pages in my edition), palatable and great fun. Alphabetically, Mr Bryson sets out the most common mistakes in English spelling, grammar and usage which he has come across. Most of the more obvious "troublesome words" are covered succinctly, clearly and with lashings of humour. Examples: "VERY should be made to pay its way in sentences"; "VARIOUS DIFFERENT is inescapably redundant"; "The Oxford English Dictionary contains 414,825 words. IRREGARDLESS is not one of them." At the end of the book is a section on punctuation. Illustrations of correct and incorrect usage are helpfully given. What adds to the fun is that most illustrations of wrong usage are taken from leading US and UK newspapers and periodicals, and even occasionally from an authority on the language; how nice to see their feet of clay. Another point in this book's favour; Mr Bryson being an American who has spent much of his professional life in the British journalistic profession, sees things from both sides of the Atlantic and does not have an overt bias one way or the other. (Unlike many British who have an almost hysterical aversion to Americanisms.)
While admirable and enjoyable, this book is too short and too personal to serve as a good reference. If you have a particular problem, it may or may not be addressed in this book.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Bill Bryson is a great writer. Book was a gift. Receiver enjoyed it!Published 3 months ago by Francis G.