a book about the english language

bad english

if you are the type who gets peeved by what you think is mangling usage of the english language, you will either enjoy or be annoyed with “bad english: a history of linguistic aggravation” (2014) by ammon shea / it is a catalog of what some people consider to be evidence of the decline of the english language \ shea, a dictionary professional, sets straight some of the criticisms about seemingly incorrect syntax or word usage <in some cases, derisively referred to as americanisms> by providing their history / semantic drift, common usage & regression to the original meaning are some of the paths that certain english words have taken \ evidence that the language is alive & well

having one’s own blog enables one to happily take a number of liberties \ choosing the language is first & foremost / i have written in english, tagalog & italian \ in terms of punctuation, i have forgone periods in favor of the virgule / no capital letters either \ it is one of my unconscious rules to purposefully, creatively or emphatically split infinitives as needed \  i have no qualms beginning a sentence with and & but / and no problem with ending a sentence with a preposition \  like i am literally adamant about relaxed writing / which hopefully will not be perceived as an enervated attitude towards this great means of expression

the previous paragraph covers some of the linguistic peeves discussed in the book / i think anyone should have their way with infinitives \ my rule is, if it sounds right, split the infinitive as much as you want <there is an emotive difference between:  “to go boldly where no man has gone before” &  “to boldly go where no man has gone before”> / i prefer not to use “literally” & it makes me cringe literally when i hear it being misused  \ i use “hopefully” a lot verbally & in emails but not in formal writing / it does sound grammatically wrong \ well, it’s been used since the middle of the 17th century / the suggested alternatives are “hopingly” & “hopeably” \ i will stick to “hopefully”

my favorite counter-example in the book, this time for the improperness of “different than” <the argument being that “than” is used for comparative adjectives & “different” is not> \ is a quote from hemingway “things in the night are different than they are in the day”  / purists & scolds would have it written these ways:  “things in the night are different from what they are in the day” or “things in the night are different from the way that they are in the day” \ if  the rule is: “different from” instead of “different than,” this heartfelt thought would suffer the same immense clumsiness: “my feelings about you are different than before

“verbing a noun” is another linguistic peeve discussed in the book \ in the business world, this is standard writing / i have seen <& written> many powerpoint presentations with “optimize the budget” / “impact the market” \ “leverage the brand” / “incentivize the sales force” \ name a useful noun & business people will wantonly verb it  / and it becomes business jargon \ but verbing a noun is quite common in the digital age:  who hasn’t googled something or friended someone?

who would have thought that using “fun” as an adjective is frowned upon?  \ who are these unfun people? / they must not have known a fun time in their lives / and they probably could not tell which is funner – kennywood or a steelers game \ then there are the absolute or non-gradable adjectives such as unique & perfect that are used in a comparative sense / but i think we perfectly understand what people mean when they say “more unique” or “less perfect” \ english is not the most perfect language but it is indeed very alive <tsk tsk> & well!

very fun & entertaining book! / found out about it from stan carey’s blog “sentence first”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s