Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Bad English


Between You and I. A Little Book of Bad English. James Cochrane.

While I certainly enjoy any praise that my writing garners, the hard truth is that I am far from a literary master. I am actually running on the fumes of my high school English classes; which leads me, on occasion, to search out refreshers and supplements for my knowledge of the written word.

Between You and I is a small handbook that outlines many common mistakes committed by users of the English language. If the title causes the hair on the back of your neck to bristle a bit, you are already ahead of the game. If not... then all the more reason to read further.

The book is arranged as a large list in alphabetical order, and is written in an authoritative British tone, yet at many times is very humorous. It has hundreds of incorrect usages; words that sound similar, misused phrases/cliches, and many "half-educated" uses of language. It also highlights 'lost-causes', incorrect bits of language that have become so ingrained that they are now mostly acceptable.

It serves as a guide for those that wish to "salvage the standards of the English language". Personally, I'd just rather not sound like an idiot. Here are some examples:

could of Educated readers will not need to be told that could of represents an illiterate mishearing of the contraction for could have - could've - and can never, in any circumstances, be considered correct English.
decimate ...related to decimal...the ancient Romans dealt with mutiny by selecting one man in ten, chosen by lot, for punishment. Decimated is now often used instead of some such word as devastated, but should not be...

less and fewer Less describes quantity, fewer describes number. For example: "For a healthy diet we should eat less sugar, salt, and animal fat and fewer sweets and chocolates." It is Bad English to write e.g., "There were less accidents on the roads last year than any year since 1958."...
Many of these hints are hard to remember and may even seem rather unnatural, as some have been so ingrained that they are nearly impossible to reverse. I do not think I will become a perfect writer overnight (veritably this post has a few errors), but this book will definitely help me avoid the most egregious blunders. I recommend this to any one who wishes to improve their command of the English language, as well as keep the grammar police at bay.

4 comments:

sunil said...

hi, nice post. In my view 'Word power made easy' by Norman Lewis might help too in correcting ur english. Mainly people make lots of grammatical errors. This might help them out. Will try out the book you have reviewed to chk out which one is the best.

momjeansblogger said...

I love this book already. I have to get it!

Nimic said...

I've had a resurgence of interest in language as of late too. I think it's because we're blogging so much, and we don't want to sound like idiots :).

Chief said...

Thanks for the comments...

If you're interested in the book, I picked it up on the 'discount' pile at Border's for about 2 bucks. Or (shameless plug) you can get it from my handy-dandy Amazon widget. One caveat, it is rather short (abt 130 pgs.) with large print. It is by no means an exhaustive source.