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How to Sound Clever: Master the 600 English Words You Pretend to Understand...When You Don't Hardcover – 15 Sep 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: A & C Black Publishers Ltd (15 Sept. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408125099
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408125090
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 2.2 x 20.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 174,998 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'This admirable book is a wholly welcome antidote to the semi-demi-literacy of the 21st century. Go out and buy it!' --Colin Dexter

About the Author

Hubert van den Bergh has worked for a City investment fund for the past decade. A language enthusiast, he has a degree in Modern Languages from Oxford University.


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I like books about words, grammar, etc., (sad, I know) and I was looking forward to receiving this one. I have to say I was underwhelmed by it.

It's always a bad sign when there are huge borders limiting the amount of actual text on each page. It makes me suspect that the book has had to be padded out. This suspicion was confirmed by some of the content.

Now I'm certainly not Stephen Fry but the revelation that "Dickensian" means "bringing to mind the novels of Charles Dickens" was not a huge shock. I knew that "opaque" means "hard to make out" (and I'm not sure that's a particularly good definition anyway). Is there anyone who doesn't have a reasonable idea what "tinnitus" is or what "tawdry" means?

There was some interest in reading a proper "definition" of a word that you have heard (in reasonably common use) and seeing whether the meaning you had worked out was correct. Having said that, I could have used a dictionary to do that.

Overall disappointing. Seems more like an attempt to rush out something that people will buy as an Xmas stocking filler rather than a genuine attempt to look (in any sort of depth) at interesting words in current use.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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