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3.8 out of 5 stars
Lost For Words: The Mangling and Manipulating of the English Language
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on 2 October 2014
entertaining
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on 12 July 2014
not bad
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14 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 28 January 2005
A good book for the future of written English and a great book for anyone who wants to converse intelligibly with other people on a daily basis, as Humphrys has to do. I doubt he'd be happy with 'daily basis'. Neither am I, now I think of it. (Shall we settle for 'daily'?)
His approach is noisy and grabby. But even for the quieter pedant, it's reassuring and instructive. Quieter pedants, after all, need to hear a bit of marching music as they tiptoe through the tulips. And they need a sense of the cultures they're crushing underfoot despite their best intentions: not just the hardy, longstanding varieties they'd meant to nurture, but the outlandish hybrids, which they mistook for gross intrusions in the garden of usage.
Humphrys for head gardener, I'd have thought.
In the meantime, a wonderful adviser on the small allotment..
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8 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 1 September 2007
What can I say?
I gave up reading after 180 pages of the same, repetitive, dull writing. There is nothing enlightening about the English language and use in this book, just page after page of pet hates and moaning. Nothing that gladdens the heart is found in this book.
Sadly one of the few books I've ever thrown away!
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13 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 9 October 2005
Your reviewer from Colchester Essex doesn't provide a name. My name is John, I am from Cambridge, and I think this is a witty well written book by a respected journalist. Interestingly your anonymous reviewer from Colchester refers to John Humphreys editor, and Humphreys i.e. the possessive, when surely it should be Humphrey's. Perhaps this is a good indication of the value of this unidentified reviewer's opinion. Lost for words? Perhaps not, but are his/her words relevant? I don't think so.
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13 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 28 February 2007
Lost for words - saw the book, thought it had an amusing approach to dissect drivel and was quite dissapointed. Mr Humphry opens by outlining that this book was only meant to reflect his personal views on what he believes to be the decline of the English language, and by all means, he does offer a great deal of personal comments. Selecting random (oral) interview sniplets, mission statements and personal anectdotes to criticise the poor usage of English today, he achieves one single point: language is changing. 333 paperback pages later, the reader is left none the wiser as to why and how. Mr Humphry just lines up evidence, with no conclusion. The thing that bugged me about his book, and I read it twice (dear me!), was that he completely disregards the reasons to the changes in language and does not acknowledge the cultural influences of street talk, media or America on language use and application.

In his chapters about corporate language, where the author goes on and on about how hollow phrases have become in mission statements and announcements, he disregards a vital point. Namely that any litigeous society as the US or England breads slang or jargon which will avoid the person making a statement to be cornered or pinned down, thus avoiding ramifications on their career status, income or social acceptance. These are facts of life today and language does no more than reflect the status of a society. Instead of pinpointing these very obvious reasons of the "mangling" of public discourse today, Mr Humphry only appears to rant on and on about his personal dislikes for the use of certain pronouns, new word creations, and how conversational languages permeates "printed" or "public" language use.

I feel sorry him really, since he comes across as a reactionairy defender of grammar and vocabulary rules, that habe not been updated for decades, making him no better than the French academy having voted for quotas on foreign music to be played on the airwaves. The consequences of which are all too visible in French language being "violated" from within, certainly not by the number of foreign songs played ont he radio.

You can't "protect" language.

You can praise Dickens and Shakespeare to the skies, but isn't the creativity of words demonstrated by Demetri Martin or Scott Adamas a more accurate reflection of the times we live in today ? That's what language is all about. Application and adaptation to the world we live in. Humphry's book left me with nothing but a "humph", and the sorry feeling that another over-zealous defender of a crown called "English" has made it's way into print.

Not to mention that he is defeating his own point by talking a lot, and saying nothing. If anyone cares, the second read was worst. I tried to get it, but here is nothing to get. Sorry. Read your local yellow pages and look up people who have fruit in their last name. More fun will be had and it'll save you 6 pounds, and the worry to recycle paper.
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4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 3 April 2011
Me and my wife got this book for Christmas (yes, not my wife and I - I am not the Queen). I cannot believe how terrible it is. While John Humphrys rants about the cheapening and devaluing of our language in the service of commerce, this book has been published for one reason and one reason only - John Humphrys is a minor celeb with a certain demographic, and like all celebs (Gareth, Jamie) he thinks he is an instant expert on every subject. In fact he is completely unqualified to discuss this subject and he never even takes the opinions of people like David Crystal under his notice. Me, I hated it and I am quite happy with my split infinitives and prepositions at the end of sentences. This is the way I speak and I intend to blithely carry on. If I could have given this no stars, I would have. It is mindless, snobbish, socially conservative garbage.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
An amusing but trenchant review of the misuse of the English language. Will NOT be read by all politicians, marketing and media wonks. The medium but *** the message.
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14 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on 13 July 2005
I can only assume that John Humphrys editor has a sense of humour. Somewhere within these pages is probably a good book, but I don't have the time to get a pickaxe and chip it out.
The writing plods, and is opinionated rather than factual. Humphrys pays no attention to the pragmatics and semantics of the language and seems to adopt a very patronising one-size-fits-all approach.
Humphrys is not an academic and should he pretend to be one. Nor should he dismiss true acadmics, simply because they don't agree with his personal bias.
Lost for words ? Maybe he should have been.
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