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Bad English: A History of Linguistic Aggravation Hardcover – 3 Jun 2014


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Jeremy P Tarcher (3 Jun. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399165576
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399165573
  • Product Dimensions: 14.9 x 2.4 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 791,816 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Denis Vukosav TOP 50 REVIEWER on 5 Jun. 2014
Format: Hardcover
The books that teach language usually are not too interesting, to put it politely, instead of saying boring or tiresome. ‘Bad English’ by Ammon Shea certainly does not fall into this category, although out of it reader will learn a lot, but equally important – have a great time.

This is the first book I read from this author (didn’t read his ‘Reading the OED’) and as not native speaker, using Shea book I managed to learn a lot about many “mistakes” in English I didn’t knew earlier, which now became more or less accepted as correct.

On the book pages author tries to give a background on history of English language, describing the ways how the language slowly developed, using numerous sources and constantly changing through the long times of its usage.

Reading it, it is possible to learn about many modern and common English words these days that you would never say that they were treated as a misspelling or considered indecent, but due to the author style who provided his story in an interesting way, offering numerous examples, these three hundred pages will fly.

Therefore all recommendations to this funny but also educational work with which certainly will not be bored.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 37 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
A fun debunking of "proper" speech 28 Jun. 2014
By John E. Mack - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There are two schools of thought among lexicographers and grammarians -- prescriptivists and descriptivists. The prescriptivists think that their profession includes guidance on speaking and writing "proper" English. The descriptivists believe that their job is just to describe how English is actually used. Most lexicographers and grammarians are a little bit of both. Shea tilts very much toward the descriptivist end of the spectrum -- I can only think of one place where he finds a usage to be improper. Along the way, he debunks prescriptivist claims about the improper or unhistorical nature of many words and word usages, such as "ain't," "compact," dangling prepositions, split infinitives, inappropriate apostrophes, etc. His researches into word history are learned and extraordinary, and effectively demolishe claims that certain disfavored usages are new or unattested in good authors. Furthermore, the book is a fun read. He uses humor to demonstrate that staid and proper grammarians do not know what they are talking about. His central thesis seems to be that there is no one such thing as "good English."

One could wish for a little more reflection from Shea, however. Like anything which evolves over time, language changes because more useful locutions drive out older, less useful ones. How does this happen, and why? Linguist evolution requires two things -- a certain degree of stability of usage, or people could not understand each other at all, and a certain degree of change, or language could not adapt to new conditions. It seems to me that Shea underplays the role of the former. Language serves many functions, but surely the most important of them is intelligibility. Change words and usage too fast and people cannot understand each other: indeed, one of the tactics used by "in groups" is to modify language in ways sufficiently radically that they cannot be understood by the general public. How much "incorrect" usage -- i.e. linguistic change -- can a language tolerate before it becomes another language? Why does language change? Is there an overall pattern to linguistic change, or are its changes purely arbitrary? Shea touches on such questions, but does so lightly and in passing. It would be beneficial if he would write another, more philosophical, book that address these deeper questions. Still, a very good book and an excellent introduction to issues confronting language and its usages.
28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
The language books usually are not too interesting, while going through this one you’ll have a great time 4 Jun. 2014
By Denis Vukosav - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The books that teach language usually are not too interesting, to put it politely, instead of saying boring or tiresome. ‘Bad English’ by Ammon Shea certainly does not fall into this category, although out of it reader will learn a lot, but equally important – have a great time.

This is the first book I read from this author (didn’t read his ‘Reading the OED’) and as not native speaker, using Shea book I managed to learn a lot about many “mistakes” in English I didn’t knew earlier, which now became more or less accepted as correct.

On the book pages author tries to give a background on history of English language, describing the ways how the language slowly developed, using numerous sources and constantly changing through the long times of its usage.

Reading it, it is possible to learn about many modern and common English words these days that you would never say that they were treated as a misspelling or considered indecent, but due to the author style who provided his story in an interesting way, offering numerous examples, these three hundred pages will fly.

Therefore all recommendations to this funny but also educational work with which certainly will not be bored.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Why is it we English speakers can't seem to nail down exactly what good grammar is? 18 Jun. 2014
By Sharon Isch - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In his latest language book, Ammon Shea, the author of "Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages," looks into the "history of linguistic aggravation." Take, for example, the confusing history of the apostrophe and the seven ways we can use it... the pros and cons of splitting infinitives... a history of "ain't" and the many ways "like" is used and abused. There's also a chapter on words that are not words, like "stupider," "irregardless" and "preventative." And sins of grammar--for example, turning a noun like "impact" into a verb or "fun" into an adjective. So why, unlike with other languages, doesn't there exist a regulating body to "guard English against the pernicious efforts of foreigners, poets and teenagers, all of whom seek to render it impure?" Shea tackles that question, too.

The author ends his book with a quiz: Of 14 quotations he lists, he challenges us to pick which are by Shakespeare and which come from the disparate world of hip-hop/rap. Sounds easy? Don't be so sure.

There's also a list of 221 words now in common use that were once frowned upon, along with who said so and why. Among them: awful, balding, bogus, bus, coincidence, date, debut, donate, fine, fun, funny, happening, healthy, hectic, hopeful, hurry, ice cream, invite, lovely, nice, rotten, sick, thanks, vest, upcoming, zoom.

A good read. Useful, too.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Yes, a Discussion of English Grammar can be Enjoyable 30 July 2014
By Kevin J. Ashley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
As one who considers himself expert in the use of English grammar, I have been prone to turning my nose up at the use of "impact" as a verb or grinding my teeth when I hear someone say "ektcetera". But after reading over Mr. Shea's most amiable discussion of the advantages of a malleable and diverse language and the development over time of English words, their meanings, and their changed meanings I am less apt to "snoot" (to coin a word, i.e. to be snooty about misuse of English words). Mr. Shea shows through examples that English survives and becomes universal because of its ability to change and that there is no original English to fall back upon for justification of restrictive rules. I chortled throughout, especially when I recognized myself in those who would state absolutes. I particularly enjoyed the references to style guides from the 19th century that called words I think of as "everyday" today abominations. Short read, good travel book. And great for starting conversations with others.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Really informative 4 Aug. 2014
By Jaclyn - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
3 1/2 stars. This book presents a lot of information about grammar, and I really enjoyed that the author was objective in presenting various words, phrases, or rules that some view as correct or incorrect. It presented a lot of information, and then told "both sides" of the argument for or against that rule, including the history behind many rules or arguments. The only drawback, to me, was that I thought it could have been organized a bit better. I thought some of the chapters or way things were presented was a bit confusing, and that it could have probably been presented in a better way. This was really informative, and I enjoyed a lot of the history and background that was offered, in addition to the various rules and topics addressed.
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