cover
ISBN: 9781402211355

Not exactly wrong, but some things I didn’t know. And yes some things were right but incorrectly taught as wrong. Or some words were written in English as they are pronounced in their original language, but whose original meaning was different. Like the grey in “greyhound” was from the old Norse word “griey”, meaning female.

They know this by tracing the old texts to when the words were first used and/ or when the changes developed.

Some things I learnt from this book: “Ain’t” and “Y’all” is perfectly good English. So is starting one’s sentences with “But” or “And”. And it isn’t wrong to end sentences with propositions.

Did you know this symbol “/” is called a Virgule? And it was an alternative for a comma? P172.

Back blurb: “Bill Brohaugh is the former editor of Writer’s Digest magazine and the former director of Writer’s Digest Books. He is the author of Unfortunate English and Professional Writers, and is the director of English through the Ages…”

P122/ 127. That “apple” was a misspelling of “napple”. What should have been “a napple” now becomes “an apple”.

Useful if ever I need to debunk/ verify claims about the origins or usage of words. But this is not a dictionary. Tone is more like a columnist (blog post, even — wonder if the author has a blog).

Exposes and debunks dubious explanations of acronyms (e.g. Sic is a real word; Golf is not an acronym).

Writes in a way that I found refreshing, e.g. pretending some words are having a conversation as a way to explain the meaning of the words (to prove the author’s point, rather). Otherwise it would be like reading a dictionary (nothing wrong with that too, but this one is more entertaining at times).

P45. How the “I before E, except after C” is not necessarily true. E.g. Heifer, atheism, being.

P51. Author says he cannot find a legitimate linguistic reason not to start a sentence with ‘Because’ or ‘And’.

P54. Debugging the SHIT acronym.

P118. That “ain’t” is correct but just not generally accepted English. It’s a contraction of “I am not”. The odd ‘correct’ form would be “amn’t”.

P119, on “Its” and It’s”: the removal of the apostrophe is a relatively recent thing (around the year 1600).

p125. Using a shorter word is not necessarily better. Example of “I used my handphone to prop open my eyelids” Vs “I utilised my handphone to prop open my eyelids”. In this case, “utilise” is more precise and also fits the definition of giving some a new, undesigned use. On the other hand, “I used my handphone” is better than “I utilised my handphone”.

P134. Mano a Mano is Spanish for “hand to hand” but somehow used (wrongly) and widely popularised and accepted as meaning man to man.

P138. “Esquivalience” was a copyright trap used in the New Oxford American Dictionary.

P139. Debunks the rule that “sentences should not end with propositions”. Explains this rule was a carry over from Latin, and recorded in Bishop Robert Lowth 1762’s “A Short Introduction to English Grammar” but when applied to English it didn’t sound natural. E.g. In Latin the expression “What’s that all about?” (about is a proposition) would be “About which is that all?”

“Villian” originally meant a person who works at a villa.

P177. There’s no “cow” in “coward”. The origin of “coward” is from the french word “coue” for tail.

P189. Origins of the “ae” sound/ symbol, where it was transcribed phonetically but usage was replaced by “a” around the Middle ages.

P197. wonders why English spelt “centre” rather than “center”. Says before 1755, some writers (writres?) frequently ended as “er”, including William Shakespeare.

201/202. Short discussion of incorrect grammar in lyrics (“Lay down Sally” or “Lie down Sally”). He suggests it’s OK to use the vernacular in artistic expressions, as it’s a reflection of the realism of expression in the storytelling.

P224/ 225. List of print and web references.
oed.com
Wordorigins.org
Worldwidewords.org
Bartleby.com
Word-detective.com
Dictionary.com
Etymonline.com
Funwords.com
“the Maven’s word of the day” http://www.randomhouse.com…
Verbivore.com

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