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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A thoroughly interesting read,
This review is from: Blooming English: Observations on the Roots, Cultivation and Hybrids of the English Language (Paperback)As the author explains early on, this is a great book for dipping into. It's filled with a broad array of short chapters that focus on different rules, regulations and other curiosities of what I now believe to be the most ambigous modern language.
This is a book that opens eyes to the peculiarities of English and helps us to better understand how we convey meaning in the words that we produce. Never again will I be caught saying,
"but that's not a real word!".
It would definately be of interest to anyone who's keen to dig a little deeper into both the development of English and it's contemporary use.
It's written in a very informal style, originally having been designed as a series of radio programs. This makes it easy to read in short burst; perhaps ideally suited to someone of a reduced attention span.
A wonderfully informative read that benefits from not being battered through in one sitting.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Blooming Lovely Book,
This review is from: Blooming English: Observations on the Roots, Cultivation and Hybrids of the English Language (Paperback)One of the nicest books I've read on the English Language, with a mix of British, American & Australian, as well as other minor tongues.
Very thorough and in-depth review of the history & evolution of English, without being too academic or highbrow.
I liked learning about changes in meanings of words, two-faced intensifiers, and words that are their own opposites. There are reviews of how yesterdays Standard English became today's colloquialisms, and some prediction of which of today's colloquialisms are about to become Standard English.
4.0 out of 5 stars Wild colonial girl,
This review is from: Blooming English: Observations on the Roots, Cultivation and Hybrids of the English Language (Paperback)'Words denoting women are prone to deteriorate over time..most men wouldn't mind being called a baronet; not many women would want to be called a dame. Compare also governor versus governess, master versus mistress, sir versus madam.'
I would add queen (earlier quean); but empress retains its aura and this relaxed survey is magisterial in scope - this dame sure knows her onions. Why, she even bests the insufferable Fowler (the nefariously dodgy-sounding 'double have', p126) If CUP had packaged and priced this right they could have got it into loos all over the country. I suppose it and its sister volume will eventually appear in CUP's diffusion range Canto, though they haven't quite got the Canto cachet (see footnote 3 below) and Canto hasn't quite that loobry feel. Anyway..
An Aussie Richard Lederer with a professorship (Lederer's only a PhD); and while he doorsteps you with his street smarts (is this right? Ed) she's more like your Aunt Flo on a long car journey - there's even a follow-up volume for the return journey - though eventually wacky Dickie would wax more wearisome (it's catching). Both he and Geoffrey Nunberg tackle the proliferation of 'nucular' (it provides the title for the latter's Going Nucular, which blows the competition out of the water). But back to Flo. We ask of any good language book that it combine archaeology with controversy, and when she says (p27) that pronouncing words like desultory and mandatory with four syllables instead of eliding the o is actually the more ancient pronunciation, I take issue with her - what's happening (granted the American influence of the older forms) is not renewed 18th century gentility (you wish!) but what I would call the Ikea syndrome. Most non-native speakers of English, presented with i-k-e-a, would pronounce it roughly the same way, as its devisers no doubt intended; only us Brits and their ilk, trailing in the Americans' wake, who as native speakers of Globish are linguistic innocents lamentably ignorant of any other tongue*, treat a word that we come across first in writing as a child would, spelling it out artlessly (and to my ear painfully) syllable by syllable - in the case of Ikea, letter by letter(!) - rather than (perish the thought) have recourse to a dictionary, still less consult one's elders (not that that would be much use now anarchy rules). It started with the ludicrous I-beetha. If Ibiza were to be anglicized it would be ibyza (and why not? cf Cadiz, which used to rhyme with ladies and is now neither English nor Spanish); what we get is a toponymical term reduced to an acronym - and show me an attractive-sounding acronym! Anyway, the Catalans would pronounce the z as s rather than the Castilian z, I presume. DIGRESSION OVER. What bugs me is that some people DO value traditional usage - for example, those who read or write poetry (because reading older poetry requires (or instills) an awareness of how it was pronounced, for scansion even more than for rhyme, while writers of poetry, no matter how free of such restraints on the page, are often called on to declaim, which, never mind 'flux', requires some benchmark of 'correctness', with which verbal vitality and ingenuity are emphatically not at odds - indeed the one enables the other!) Respecting the language we have inherited is no different from wishing to preserve old buildings; both are subject to alteration or decay, but that is no reason to abandon them, and linguists' PC pussyfooting around the issue drives me bananas. GRIPE OVER. Of course Burridge is right - mutability is all (flux, she calls it); and when she deals with stress in a strictly historical way (p117-20) she is illuminating and fun, though still dashed confusing - foreign learners must yearn for English to be ratatat-tat rather than tumteetum (p106), though all languages (even French!) have their quirks.
An affable and sometimes acute companion ('verbs are to be avoided in advertising' 'Lord is still [used] for deities and certain Englishmen, but any woman can call herself a lady if she chooses') and a veritable cornucopia** of erudition***, Burridge is clearly Australia's answer to the blessed Mary Beard and, yes, she would be terrific on that long car journey****.
*I'm talking of Brits here; many Americans are still properly Franco- or Italophile, and of course many have rudimentary Spanish
**I must confess I hadn't connected 'up the duff' with the pudding club. And as for twit - but you'll have to read the book (the index is atrocious - though it lists loobry, for Pete's sake!)
***but valour cognate with velours?! Intriguing idea (both hairy?) - but not from where I'm sitting. Like her archaic slang and French dialect exhibits (but WHICH dialect? see my amazon.com review) I'm beginning to suspect a leg-pull. And the author might care rather hastily to substitute culinary cachet for caché (p152) in a future edition(!!) Moreover, Burridge inadvertently perpetuates a clanger which actually supports her 'i'-connoting-small thesis; as any Scot worth his bannocks will tell you, 'many a mickle makes a muckle' is a nonsense. Mickle means much, as does muckle; the phrase (virtually disappeared, Kate? depends where you live) should be 'many a little makes a mickle'; you may substitute pickle for little if that makes it easier - and of course you may also say 'many a little makes a muckle', but why would you? The sound seems to have caused the sense-shift (or, frankly, solecism) among the Sassenachs. I have no Scots blood or relatives but mickle respect for our common tongue. It is just not good enough for a linguist to shrug her shoulders sheepishly and say "Don't look at me!"; Chambers rightly calls this locution absurd; mickle a muckle makes a muddle. In return, one Kate might like - spotted in a London *arts* festival brochure, no less - is 'vagueries' for vagaries!
***oh, and the botanically themed epigraphs are an absolute joy (at least CUP got that right; but we'll draw a veil over 'twighlight', shall we?)
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Blooming English: Observations on the Roots, Cultivation and Hybrids of the English Language by Kate Burridge (Paperback - 27 May 2004)
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