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Lost For Words: The Mangling and Manipulating of the English Language [Kindle Edition]

John Humphrys
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)

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Book Description

From empty cliche to meaningless jargon, dangling participle to sentences without verbs, the English language is reeling. It is under attack from all sides. Politicians dupe us with deliberately evasive language. Bosses worry about impacting the bottom line while they think out of the box. Academics talk obscure mumbo jumbo. Journalists and broadcasters, who should know better, lazily collaborate. John Humphrys wittily and powerfully exposes the depths to which our beautiful language has sunk and offers many examples of the most common atrocities. He also dispenses some sensible guidance on how to use simple, clear and honest language. Above all, he shows us how to be on the alert for the widespread abuse - especially by politicians - and the power of the English language.

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Product Description


Humphrys is passionate about language - and very funny too (Rod Liddle)

an exquisite sensitivity to the misuse of the English language (The Sunday Times)

highly relevant book ... Three cheers (Sunday Express)

for all those who care about the English language (Ann Widdecombe, New Statesman)

You will have fun with this book (Guardian)

Book Description

Today programme presenter's Top Ten bestselling cry for better English in paperback

for summer.

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More About the Author

John Humphrys has reported from all over the world for the BBC and presented its frontline news programmes on both radio and television, in a broadcasting career spanning forty years. He has won a string of national awards and been described as a 'national treasure'. He owned a dairy farm for ten years and has homes in Greece and London.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very entertaining read 5 Mar. 2006
By Tealady2000 VINE VOICE
I have just read the other Amazon reviews of this book and I'd like to start by saying that I find it exasperating when people criticize an author for giving their personal opinion when that author states quite clearly at the start of the book that they are giving their personal opinion!
This is John Humphry's view of the sad decline in the correct use of English. He's not an academic, so this is not a rule book (though you may well learn something - I certainly did). He's an experienced journalist and broadcaster, and as such he is an expert at spotting when people use fancy words to say very little. There are some fantastic examples in here of advertising jargon and political guff. And he's not afraid to name and shame the worst offenders. The section on business-speak gives a mind-boggling selection of non-words. I have to confess that I now regularly threaten to 'de-individuate' my sons when they don't get ready quickly enough in the morning.
Humphrys accepts that English is constantly evolving and he acknowledges that he is intensely irritated by some linguistic developments that are happily accepted by others. There is certainly an element of Grumpy Old Man-ism here but personally I find that quite entertaining.
In summary this book is a personal view of the abuse and misuse of English. Keep that in mind and you won't go far wrong.
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81 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, Intelligent and sane 17 Nov. 2004
By A Customer
This has been a great read and is more than just waking up with John Humphrys in the morning. The book is funny and sharp in its capturing the essence of what our language is going through. I loved the bits where he takes the language of politicians and exposes the conscious manipulation. It's more than about politics;everyone who misuses language (and there are a lot of them about including himself) gets caught in his sights. But it's not a pedantic book. It's very entertaining.
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60 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars lost for words 25 Nov. 2004
By A Customer
This really is a good book. I thought at first it was going to be a Humphry's rant, which it is but it is also very much more.The first half of the book is about mangling language. Humphreys cares passionately that language should be used to communicate and it upsets him when it does the opposite ,either deliberately or through neglect. He uses examples, written and spoken, from a variety of sources to illustrate mangling. however, I think the book is best when Humphrys shows us how politicians,advertisers and others deliberately mangle language to hide the truth or to communicate an idea so losely that they cannot be held accountable for it. He shows how language can be used to communicate along a spectrum running from clarity to deception. But he's not a pendant. He believes that almost every language rule can be broken as long as it is clear. Readers will also discover that they are not the only ones to listen to the weather forecast but hear nothing. Humphrys manages all of this with great humour.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Humphrys' Language 23 Aug. 2011
Having been an avid listener to John Humphrys' for many years, the thought of him lost for words left me puzzled; there have been times when I asked him (out loud in the car) to stop talking so that I could hear the interviewee but lost for words? Never.
Without going into the detail of some other reviewers, he looks at the many ways in which language can be mangled and manipulated, sometimes accidentally by those who know no better, sometimes deliberately by those who know very well. For those who know no better, various suggestions are put forward, and for future generations.
For those who know what they are doing or whose profession it is to manipulate language fro specific purposes, I suspect that is why we need the Paxman, Humphreys and Naughties of this world, not to mention the Robin Days from whom they learned a lot.
For those who enjoy Humphrys, it is an enjoyable, personal insight into his views on language.

"Composite words like 'ongoing' and 'upcoming' are not only ugly: they are redundant" (P 108), a word not apllicable to Humphrys.

An enjoyable read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 1946 7 Feb. 2011
By Yahshua
In 1946, Orwell launched his essay 'Politics and the English Language' with the words:
'Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way'.
Familiar territory then. But while Orwell gave us a little over 5,000 words, Mr Humphreys has spun his message out to 330 pages.
Orwell even provides a 90 word summary:
(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
(ii) Never us a long word where a short one will do.
(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.
(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
Mr Humphreys, (iii) is good!!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed - a bad buy me thinks ... 17 Oct. 2013
Cover 3.0 Please Mr Humphries if you are going to say something is wrong then at least provide a clear version or explanation of what should be the correct version. You try to do this to others on Today so why not in writing? Some editors do this to me when commenting on my writing. An alteration is made without any explanation of why. I am up to page 50 and wondering whether I will read on or put the book aside as a waste of money. Perhaps the reviewer quoting Orwell has hit the nail on the head. Sorry Mr Humphries I will stick with Simon Heffer. Alexander of the Allrighters and Ywnwab.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars almost afraid to write a critique, should have paid ...
almost afraid to write a critique , should have paid more attention in my English Language lessons75 years ago!!! JEL
Published 3 months ago by joseph lambton MBE
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A very useful and inspiring book.
Published 5 months ago by FJM
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 10 months ago by M J Oliver
3.0 out of 5 stars The condition of the book is excellent however the contents are not...
The condition of the book is excellent however the contents are not that good. Love books on the English Language but this lost my interest less than half way through.
Published 10 months ago by Mrs. C. J. Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb
This is fantastic. No punches pulled and have to say I agree with almost every word which say a lot. Certainly recommend to any one.
Published 11 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A damned good read written by a true man of words. A book that stands revisiting.
Published 12 months ago by Mac Greenwood
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
a very good word smith
Published 12 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
not bad
Published 12 months ago by C. reid
5.0 out of 5 stars literature
In this day and age such books should be thrust in front of Directors of Education, Ministers of State and any other politician or public managers of anything.
Published 16 months ago by abbeybarn
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent read
Do not be afraid this is too academic. Told in plain language how to use plain language. As always with John Humphries with a good deal of humour.
Published on 10 April 2013 by GREENGRASS
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