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on 19 January 2006
This isn't my usual type of book but a friend pressed me to read it because they obviously think I'm a pedant. I'm glad to say I loved it! Andrea Barham quickly draws you in with a highly personal slant and I found myself easily fascinated with subjects that wouldn't have previously have appealed to me. I can now confidently refute some of my wife's old wives tales (tho she was partly right about some) and am armed and ready to pedantically deflate my father-in-law's worst pomposities. Joking aside, this is such an easy book to read yet crammed full of fascinating truths along with accompanying internet links for many of the articles should you wish to delve deeper. I love the way that if you have a butterfly mind you can easily flit from topic to topic but also the way Andrea personalises it so that it isn't just another dry, academic historical or grammatical textbook. I loved it and am eagerly waiting more, meanwhile I'm going to go to the internet link to hear JFK call himself a jelly doughnut - or did he ?!
Enjoy...
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on 13 October 2005
There's nothing better than telling someone who thinks they are right that they are wrong -- and with this book in your pocket you will be well-prepared to do just that! Andrea Barham's book seeks to debunk the many myths that have grown up over the years in human life. Think that Aryans were an ancient race of tall, blue-eyed blondes? That six-shooters shot six bullets? That lemmings commit mass suicide? Think again! In 21 themed chapters (Art, Food, History, etc) the author takes us through hundreds of common misconceptions, revealing the facts behind the beliefs. This is a top-quality production -- it feels nice to hold and is full of interesting facts, laced with a generous touch of humour throughout. This is a perfect book to keep on the shelves and dip into and is bound to be a bestseller. Buy it now, before it sells out!
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on 20 October 2005
This is a great little book. The sort you can just pick up at any time, and derive a bit of useful information.....and a chuckle! It reveals the truth about loads of things we've been brought up to believe. There were so many 'urban myths' in there that I'd heard of, and actually wondered about! Well written, well illustrated, and obviously well researched, it makes a perfect gift...especially at this price!
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on 12 March 2006
I'm thinking of writing a companion volume called "Stating the Obvious: a load of stuff you already knew but I want to jump on the bandwagon too." For instance, take the very first entry: "Harpo Marx was mute". Did you think Harpo was mute? No, me neither. Similarly, did you believe that Frankenstein was a monster, that Pagans were devil-worshippers, that JFK said "I am a doughnut" or James Cagney "you dirty rat"? Or, and this clinched it for me, were you under the impression that "'It's' is a possessive pronoun"?
Admittedly there is some interesting stuff in here, but the amount of trivial bits and pieces that most people would already know, just makes the whole thing a bit feeble and patronising.
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on 8 February 2006
While I enjoyed reading this book, I found enough in it that I knew to be false or found to be unconvincing that I didn't dare rely on the rest of it. With the title it has, I expected rock-solid facts and rock-solid reasoning based on them, and often found neither. In other words, I could out-pedant the pedant without trying too hard.
To quote some examples, the author argues for a non-Scottish origin of haggis by trying to establish the etymology of the word. This by quoting a non-existent Swedish word and a non-existent Icelandic word to prove the Germanic origins. And then arguing that Germanic roots clearly establish it as having come from outside (presumably Gaelic roots are desired?) Ignoring the fact that Germanic speech has been present in Scotland since at least the sixth century and that Gaelic has never been the language of the whole country anyway...
Or take the argument that the 'Eskimos' do not really have lots of words for snow. This hits the problem of what is meant by 'Eskimo' (a word not used by the peoples themselves anyway). The author quotes someone writing about the Yupik of Alaska, ignoring the fact that most people's Eskimos are the Inuit, who according to anthropologist Hugh Brodie in his book "The Other Side of Eden" do indeed have a great msny words for snow.
And for a final example of poor argument, you can rest assured that "Puff the Magic Dragon" is not a veiled reference to drugs. The reason? The now-older-and-wiser author denies it...
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on 29 August 2009
A nice book, good on the coffee table. Funnily enough, I bought the sequel, The Pedants Return, before this and I actually preferred it. Nevertheless, a good book.
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on 10 March 2014
Well worth a read. Loved it. Light, funny and ideal for a quick read when bored.
A daft read and ideal for the toilet library.
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on 23 June 2013
There's quite a few books similar to this but I like this one, probably because everyone I know calls me a pedant.
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on 20 December 2005
This looks the type of book that you think might be good idea as a stocking filler but after you start reading it your realise its a great idea. Plenty of amusing and interesting snippets which just keep the page turning. The more you read the dimmer you realise you are.
Excellent *****
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on 22 February 2006
This book corrects many common assumptions and misapprehensions. It's interesting and it does a reasonable job, but perhaps what I liked most about it was that increased my general level of scepticism -- it does encourage one to take fewer things for granted, and I think that's great.
What's rather less great is that the author tries to round off many the articles with a little footnote that is all too often patronising or gratingly twee -- on the item about whether hair can turn white overnight, she finishes: "as for the reasons behind Sir Thomas More's hair whitening, imminent decapitation would be stressful enough to prompt anybody's hair to fall out!". Well, yes, presumably so.
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