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4.1 out of 5 stars
How to Sound Clever
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 14 October 2010
I've always been insecure about some everyday words like `Luddite' and `egregious' and `invidious' - but the problem was I never got around to looking them up.
So I was delighted to discover this book which positively brims with all these words that were foxing me.
For example, I've read some of George Orwell's novels, but when someone described a situation as `Orwellian', I never knew exactly what this meant. It turns out the word doesn't refer to `Animal Farm' (as I thought it did) but exclusively to Orwell's novel `1984', and so `Orwellian' means `contrary to the well-being of a free society'. This is a classic case of thinking you know a word and so never looking up its exact meaning.
I did already know about 5% of the words in the book but language is such a subjective thing that I guess one book is never going to provide you with every single word you don't know.
And when I have friends over, this book inevitably gets spotted by someone and out it comes - it's a great icebreaker to pass around the table after a meal and get people to select a word and then see who knows the real meaning.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 3 May 2011
I bought this book after reading the positive reviews on Amazon. I was a little perturbed by the some more negative appraisals but chose to take a punt. I am very pleased I did. The book is very enjoyable to pick up when a spare five minutes presents itself. I had heard of some of the words included previously but the majority of the words contained in the book were new to me. I really liked that the book also explained the origin of the words. I was concerned that the book would be a bit like reading a dictionary but the notes on word origins and the interesting, unusual nature of the words included meant that this was not the case. Prior to purchasing the book, I had considered my vocabulary to be better than average. This book has improved it.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 24 September 2010
How to Sound Clever is a celebration of the English language; after reading it, you will want to constantly dip back into the book and try out your new vocabulary. The author's enthusiasm for words is infectious, the narrative is filled with fascinating nuggets which have been painstakingly researched. The author's clever use of context, coupled with wonderful illustrations, enables the reader to see how to slip these words into conversation as well as memorise an expanding vocabulary. There is a contagious enthusiasm for the derivation of words, this book is a rich and rewarding read. Everyone should have a copy!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 10 December 2010
Excellent book to dip in and out of. Some words I already knew, but most were new and explained well, some in an amusing way and some with witty illustrations. Interestingly, a few of the words are not available in everyday dictionaries and thesuarus so I am still lacking confidence to use them. If someone reads a word you have written in a letter or essay etc and needs to find the meaning it isn't available so they might think you have made a mistake !
After using the book for a while I realised how most of the words chosen have a negative side to them, if you are looking for words to compliment or praise this is not the book for you.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 24 September 2010
This book is a rare beast - it educates and it entertains. Words can be fascinating and we use/understand far too few of them, but most of us are too idle to open a dictionary. The author doesn't peddle in the arcane or the abstruse - he illuminates words with which we are all familiar but which we might not dare to use for fear of being ridiculed. How often do we amuse ourselves while we learn? This book cherishes not only words but its readers too.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 24 September 2010
Are you depressed by the bastardization of the English language into sloganized Grazia cliches and vacuous workplace vernacular ? Well, look no further as here is an effective cure for our verbal afflictions.
It will enable you to use our wonderful words with confidence and pride, elevate your W11 dinner party chat and generate impressed glances of admiration from across the table. 'How to' will also fascinate those that care about the origin of words and the evolution of their meaning.
Language is a constant work in progress - Mr Van den bergh is a brilliant and unvarnished guide for this eternal journey.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 29 October 2010
If you like using words to bring out the best in the way you express yourself
this book is for you.My only criticism is that more attention could have been provided to illustrate pronunciation and sentence construction with the word.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 November 2010
Having read a review of this book, we could not wait all that time until Christmas so I bought a copy. Not only is it informative and gives you reassuringly smug feeling to confirm what you *think* you know, it's, importantly, also very humbling to find out what you actually don't!

It's an deal source to arm yourself with some Michael Caine 'Not a lot of people know this but...' tit-bits to entertain your family and friends at Christmas drinks parties - whether you'll have any afterwards is another matter!
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on 1 November 2012
There are very few words in this marvellous book that you could only use when the Martians land. Otherwise, with perfect ease, you could work the rest into any conversation, letter or speech, etc.
However, what I particularly liked were some of the lesser known meanings of these words - woe betide any smart-alec who dares to correct you. They would instantly become de trop after your kind explanation. Essentially, it's a put-down waiting to happen.
In addition and probably more importantly - the author, Hubert van den Bergh, gives excellent and interesting examples as to the correct use of each and every word in this personal lexicon.
In my view, this book is protection against those with too much hauteur.
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on 17 November 2014
This book was a great find.

I've read many books about the use of words in English, most of them are cluttered and hardly get to the point. How to Sound Clever delivers four benefits:

>one, it has a short introduction and then gets to the point
>two, you don't have to read it in one go, you can come back to again and again
>three, it's a pleasant read as it explains words in simple terms and often gives examples to illustrate the correct use of many of them
>four, there are simple illustrations throughout which break up the text and make it a fun read

It's a book people from any walk of life would benefit from. I've leant the author is about to publish a new title, I look forward to reading the next book.
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