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Dictionary Of Disagreeable English: A…
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Dictionary Of Disagreeable English: A Curmudgeon's Compendium of… (edició 2004)

de Robert Hartwell Fiske

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An accessible and humorous guide to tricky grammar and usage problems provides a wealth of useful tips and sidebars that identify common grammar pitfalls and need-to-know information, in a resource that is presented in a witty and grouchy tone designed to engage both novices and word mavens. Origina
Títol:Dictionary Of Disagreeable English: A Curmudgeon's Compendium of Excruciatingly Correct Grammar
Autors:Robert Hartwell Fiske
Informació:Writers Digest Books (2004), Edition: illustrated edition, Paperback, 352 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca

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Dictionary of Disagreeable English, Deluxe Edition de Robert Hartwell Fiske

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Though it calls itself a "Compendium of Grammar", it is a wonderfully sarcastic collection of commonly confused words throughout the English lexicon. ( )
  cjrecordvt | Aug 13, 2016 |
Chicken Soup for the Pedant's Soul

For those who understand the proper way to speak and write the English language, it is a cruel world. Each and every day of their wretched existence, their keenly attuned eyes and ears suffer the assault of a thousand fingernails on a thousand chalkboards. They are surrounded by fools who use “hopefully” to mean “it is my hope”; cretins who don’t understand the enormity of using “enormity” to mean “really, really big”; morons who use unnecessarily repetitive phrases such as “each and every day.”

If you believe that there is a right way and a wrong way to use English, that these can be easily distinguished by anybody who cares enough to learn the rules, that non-normative English usage is inherently bad, and that its widespread acceptance shows how debased contemporary society has become, then welcome home. Robert Hartwell Fiske offers balm for the wounds you have suffered in dealing with those who can’t properly speak their own native tongue. His Dictionary of Disagreeable English is not a usage guide so much as a portable support group. Each entry features authentic howlers for one to mock with smug satisfaction. A feeling of well-being will come over you as Fiske concisely corrects all wrongs and castigates the clueless.

Here’s a representative entry:

Misused for other. • Spam—fraudulent and otherwise—continues to skyrocket, clogging overtaxed networks. USE other. • Future events and actual results, financial and otherwise, may differ from the results discussed in the forward-looking statements. USE other.
This usage is all but lost. The word other, as a noun or adjective, is certainly correct; less so the word otherwise—even though few people today do not use the word otherwise in these constructions where other seems the better choice. Only the punctilious use other instead of otherwise, and only they say what they actually mean.

Here and elsewhere, Fiske starts by stating the nature and severity of the error: “misused for” is at the center of a scale running from “misspelling of” through “idiotic for.” He provides examples illustrating how egregiously the term has been misused and adds a bit of snarky commentary putting down those who misuse the term. (This is subdued here, as Fiske atypically grants that the battle has been “all but lost.”)

If this were a legitimate usage guide, and not a support group, Fiske might explain why one should never use “otherwise” to modify anything other than an adverb. When the great Henry Fowler, in 1926, became the first to challenge this construction, he took pains to explicate the grammatical grounds for his objection. A prescriptivist in 2004 (especially one who calls himself “the Grumbling Grammarian”) ought to be able to provide those reasons. Furthermore, he ought to be conversant with what later authorities have said; if—as is the case—most of them have held that Fowler’s criticism was misguided or outdated, he ought to be able to explain why he disagrees. This would enable the reader to understand the issues at stake, and to gain an increased understanding of how the language develops and is used. It would be an object lesson in understanding the interplay of adverbs and adjectives in general. Ideally, it would welcome readers into a fascinating multigenerational symposium on language. Good usage guides understand that language is fluid, and books are static; their goal is to create more informed and sensitive readers who can trust their own ears for language, rather than merely telling them which usages are good and which are bad.

But this is not a usage guide. It’s meant for those who feel that there’s no point in discussion, that the English language is as fixed as the stars in the sky. It’s for those who understand the letter of the law, those who feel that any talk of its spirit is namby-pamby liberal hogwash. It’s for those who feel that American academic English is not merely one dialect of the language, but the only correct dialect.

Such people may be warmed by entries explaining that “So-called variant spellings are nothing other than misspellings,” that “humongous is altogether a monstrosity,” that “Proclaiming the validity and usefulness of obfusticate is behavior worthy of a half-wit,” and that “People who use good where well should be are soulless speakers, hopeless writers.” (Not for them Dwight Bolinger’s 1980 observation that “good has become emotionally charged, well is colorless. He treats me good expresses more appreciation than He treats me well.”)

Perhaps this focus on making readers feel good about their rules explains the entry on “licence.” Fiske notes that “In the United States, license is the correct spelling,” but fails to note how this differs elsewhere. It also explains his first example: “Webevents is able to offer licence agreements for its online exhibition software. USE license.” In Fiske’s world, it’s irrelevant that Webevents is a British company using the correct British spelling; if they’re on the Web, they ought to write the American way.

It certainly explains two of the appendices, which list the fifty best and fifty worst words, as chosen by readers of Fiske’s The Vocabula Review. The “best” words include “borborygmus,” “callipygian,” “obloquy,” and “porphyrophobia”: the emphasis is on the most obscure and complex words, rather than the most useful and euphonious. (In fairness, “euphony” itself makes the list.) The “worst” words include “dinghy” (“I hate the word dinghy”), “penis and vagina” (“they stand out as uncomfortable”), “pick” (“I hate this crummy word used instead of choose”), and “scrotum” (“the ugliest word in the English language”). These lists would have no place in a hard-line reference book, but they allow the reader to commune with fellow curmudgeons.

If you’d like a constructive book about English usage and its development, pick up Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage while combing used book stores for James Kilpatrick’s brilliant The Writer’s Art. If you just want to feel smug and superior—or to have a good laugh at those who do—feel free to buy Fiske’s book instead.

(The above review was written in 2004. I had to leave several examples on the cutting-room floor. My favorite may have been Fiske calling out a restaurant menu for saying that vegetarian items were indicated with a "carrot" instead of a "caret"; I found the menu, and—as most people would expect from the context—an icon depicting a carrot was used. One might also ask why the book's subtitle claims it's a "compendium of excruciatingly correct grammar" when the overwhelming majority is concerned with usage, spelling, and pronunciation, not grammar. But I was limited to 1,000 words.) ( )
  SR510 | Jul 23, 2011 |
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An accessible and humorous guide to tricky grammar and usage problems provides a wealth of useful tips and sidebars that identify common grammar pitfalls and need-to-know information, in a resource that is presented in a witty and grouchy tone designed to engage both novices and word mavens. Origina

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