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on 12 June 2012
I have read more than a dozen books about the English language by authors such a David Crystal and Henry Hitchings but this book adds even more information.

It's based on the Oxford Corpus, a database of over two billion words. It shows the most commonly used words. It outlines the origins of words and discusses changes in the spelling and meaning of words. It comments on patterns of words such as 'a sea change' and words that are commonly linked together (the word 'naked' is more often linked with 'eye', than with 'body'). There's a chapter on idiomatic phrases and others on grammar and style.

Well worth buying whether you are a novice or well versed.
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on 17 December 2008
What have "women and sticks" to do with "cats and dogs" ? What do "which" and "want" have in common? What is a corpus, and why does it matter ? The answers to these - and many more - questions are all to be found in this gem of a book.

Jeremy Butterfield writes with wit, style and authority on the elusive mysteries of the English language - a subject to which he has dedicated the bulk of his working life. The book is a fascinating and highly informative analysis of how our language is used and how it is evolving.

Highly recommended.
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on 21 August 2011
I'll admit it - one of the main factors in my purchase of this book was the amusing title and cover art, followed by the praise one of my favourite authors on the top. But despite my hasty purchase I was far from disappointed! I'm just about to start my A levels and am interested in doing linguistics at university and I found this a great introduction to that most beautiful science. The book is written in a way that is easy to understand yet not patronising and covers all the basics such as what a corpus is and why it is so important, why spelling and meaning change and why prescriptivism is doomed to failure. Thoroughly recommended to anyone interested in English/language!
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on 2 June 2014
The paperback edition which I received is printed on such poor quality paper that all the text has bled quite badly, making it quite
annoying to read.
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on 1 February 2009
I gave this book to my husband, who is a scientist, as a Christmas present. I was a bit doubtful whether he would enjoy it, as it is not the sort of book he would choose to read. However, it was a great success! He didn't put it down and read it all in one sitting, and often treated the rest of the family to entertaining quotes from it.
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on 11 January 2014
An easy to read and most informative book that will appeal to lovers of the English language. It's a useful accompaniment to dictionaries and thesaurus.
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on 18 January 2013
A well structured and written book, informative with great examples.

Just one thing that knocks a star off, why the z's? I found it quite ironic that a book about English written [apparently] by an Englishman could use the American spelling of words such as organisation, yet words like colour were spelt 'correctly'... I was expecting to come across a paragraph justifying the decision but it never materialiZed...
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on 22 March 2010
if you are interested in language, this book is for you - or, in fact, anyone who can speak English!
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Linguistics professionals don't get it, do they?
Something tiny is now more often described as miniscule than minuscule, we're told (p7): what the bean-counters signally fail to register is that educated usage chiefly in America - we've precious few educated speakers (those who read voraciously and care for the language) left over here* - continues to favour the earlier usage. Miniscule is as grotesque as it looks, a barbarism impure and simple and NOT a small scule (sigh)

* America's (crowd-funded) PBS voluntarily maintains the standards the BBC has relinquished: discuss
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on 9 January 2012
I bought this book as a Christmas present for my Dad, and he loves it. I would recommend it to others.
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