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The King's English (Penguin Modern Classics) by [Amis, Kingsley]
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The King's English (Penguin Modern Classics) Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Length: 252 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled Page Flip: Enabled

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Product Description


A terrific book ... learned, robust, aggressive, extremely funny (Sebastian Faulks)

From the Back Cover

Sir Kingsley Amis, who died in 1995, occupied a unique position in the world of English letters. As well as being one of the most successful and influential writers since the war, having published more than twenty novels, he was a poet, critic and prolific anthologiser. In all his work, and throughout his life, the use and abuse of the English language was one of his principal concerns. Now at last we have a book which will, entertainingly, authoritatively and concisely, convey his love and knowledge of the subject to new generations of readers and writers.

Here can be found all those linguistic pitfalls ('crescendo', 'enormity', 'disinterested') which lie in wait for the ignorant or the careless. And if you've ever wondered whether it's acceptable to start a sentence with 'and', or what you risk revealing about yourself by your pronunciation of 'liqueur', or whether or not to cross your sevens in the French style, Amis has the answer.

Arranged alphabetically, by turns reflective, acerbic, combative and controversial, 'The King's English' will find a place on the shelves of anyone who cares about the English language and the way in which it is used.

"Amis is one of the few truly great prose stylists to have appeared in England since the Second World War."
HARRY RITCHIE, 'The Guardian'

"Amis's love of limpid and correct English shows itself in everything he wrote… like Evelyn Waugh, he constrained and controlled a natural anarchism by respect for the rules of correct expression. This made his comedy all the more exuberant, and gave his satire its unforgettable accuracy."
JOHN CASEY, 'Evening Standard'

"He remained throughout his writing life a brilliant practitioner of English prose."

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1923 KB
  • Print Length: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (2 Jun. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005437286
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #141,525 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book firstly relies on the reader being first pernickity about the use of language, second grouchy and third susceptible to Amis' (by this stage familiarly comic) right-wing act. Although there is little doubt that Amis held his political views firmly, he also revelled in the avuncular role of the curmudgeon, and it is in this light that the book should be viewed. Published posthumously, The King's English (and an entry on the pun is included) sets out Amis' manifesto on the usage of the language. Any reading of his fiction will have shown preoccupation with the correct use of language. As befits an author so deft at writing comically realistic dialogue, this often appears in observations about the spoken word (for example, see the following exchange from Jake's Thing, between Jake and his new doctor:
'Now your trouble is that your libido [lib-eedo] has declined.'
'My what?' asked Jake, though he had understood all right.
'Your libido, your sexual drive.'
'I'm sorry, I'd be inclined to pronounce it lib-ighdo, on the basis that we're talking English, not Italian or Spanish, but I suppose it'll make for simplicity if I go along with you. So, yes, my lib-eedo has declined.'
The book lists Kingsley's musings in alphabetical order. He distinguishes between those abusers of the language he describes with the popular expletives for one who engages in onanism, and a person of uncertain parentage, and he details his shibboleths by which to judge the standard of a person's English. (Incidentally, Microsoft Word wants to change the word 'onanism', which it underlines in red, to 'unionism.' In The King's English, Amis puts his case for the typewriter over the word-processor, but he may have appreciated the right-wing revisions of my Microsoft software.
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Format: Paperback
In this slim volume, Kingsley Amis imparts more wit and wisdom than you're likely to come across in tomes twice the size or more. It's a delight to read cover to cover, and then to dip into as the need arises. Whilst you're unlikely to agree with every one of KA's pronouncements, you will be stimulated to ask yourself why not. Although its primary aim is proper English, as opposed to the mongrel variety we are now subjected to on a daily basis, French expressions come in for discussion, as also does the odd Latin phrase. If you want to be highly amused, mildly exasperated and discreetly educated, then you will not be disappointed.
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Format: Paperback
This is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to English usuage, unlike Fowler, of whom Amis is a big fan. Instead it is a collection of the commonest errors and Amis's pet dislikes.

Generally, I found him to be (surprisingly?) sensible guide. His recommended overall approach (which is very similar to Fowler's) is that neologisms and stylistic inventions should be resisted strongly at first, but to go with the flow once they become universal - because otherwise you risk being seen as a pedant, a fogey and a figure of fun. This seems sensible advice to me, and does his recommendation to put clarity of meaning first, even when this means breaking strict grammatical rules.

He gives some nice examples of the misuse of words - jejune is an brilliant one; the English word that have now turned into a French one with a new meaning.

There's the odd attempt at winding up the more politically correct (that'll be me then) such as the section on Womanese - the quasi-human language style often used by women. This is very unfair, but...he has a point.

Entertaining and useful - worth four stars.
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Format: Paperback
I keep Fowler next to my desk, which works well as a reference book when you have a specific question. This is an ideal companion volume, and being much more digestible is in many ways more useful. It works best as a book to dip in to, and made me laugh out loud several times. A guaranteed cure for dogmatic pedants...
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Format: Kindle Edition
Written during the reign of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, there can be no doubt that the title here refers not to the language as defined by the sovereign, but to the language as defined by "The King", as Kingsley Amis (KA) was known by, to some of his close friends.

Many of us are probably guilty of the mistake of assuming that the verbal dexterity shown by writers such as KA comes pretty naturally and that given the time and a bit of effort that there is no reason why most of us could not produce a novel or two without tripping up on points of grammar or meaning. Ahhh, but how mistaken we are. Writing is a skill as much as any other, and good writing is that skill at its peak, comparable to the skill of a concert pianist or a professional golfer or a master glass-cutter. High skills require innate talent, hard work and dedication. And it really should come as no surprise to find that KA had always to hand his Oxford English Dictionary and his copy of Fowler's Modern English Usage and that these reference books were his "Bibles" throughout his hugely successful writing career. And during those years he honed his own skills to such a degree that he could write this unique personal contribution to English grammar and usage. Who would have thought that a grammar book would make one laugh out loud? Well, this one does.

In "The King's English" KA provides us in a condensed form the fundamental knowledge that aspirant writers (and readers) should have, although as he points out, and as we know deep down, many writers do not seem to have this basic knowledge (read the newspapers and listen to daily radio for a constant stream of bloomers, (or is that bloopers?)).

So, here we have instruction and advice on:

The "dangling participle".
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