Learn more Download now Shop now Learn more Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Learn more Shop Fire Shop Kindle New Album - Morrissey Learn more Shop Women's Shop Men's

Customer reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
9
4.1 out of 5 stars


on 16 May 2001
Semantic change - etymology - philology - the history of words, or word-complexes, is often dealt with in a dictionary by an abbreviated form of 'it used to mean X, but now it means Y' explanation, and perhaps this is the most realistic way of handling the matter in a dictionary. Modern linguists have their own rigourous and abstract techniques. But in this intellectually demanding work C. S. Lewis, working at the height of his powers, takes the widest of perspectives, and retains depth of focus. He traces the changing meanings of several words, over the centuries and millennia, from their Greco-Roman and Anglo-Saxon roots to the modern day. The result is valuable exposition, with depth both in psychology and philosophy, and rich in literary source material. The words themselves are treated as living entities, evolving by expansion, contraction, and development of new forms. His chosen words are: 'nature', 'sad', 'wit', 'free', 'sense', 'simple', 'conscience and conscious', 'world', 'life', and 'I dare say'.
As Lewis says, 'The point of view is merely lexical and historical', and 'not an essay in higher linguistics', but this belies the many adventitious benefits that stem from his handling of the resources at his command. His purpose is to give us 'an aid to more accurate reading' and to throw light 'on ideas and sentiments'. I find that in so doing he imparts as much practical technique, knowledge, and enthusiasm for words as a whole year's worth of undergraduate linguistics. For instance, the subtlety of usage of a phrase like 'I dare say' and the potential for even complete reversal in meaning is illustrated through centuries of use from Malory, Dickens, W. S. Gilbert, E. Nesbit, Dorothy L. Sayers, debate in the House of Lords, John Bunyan, and Jane Austen. The result is not a mere catalogue of shades of meaning, but an analysis and satisfying literary work in its own right - and that's just one chapter. The index alone references about two hundred authors from Aeschylus and Augustine to Xenophon and Yeats. The twenty-three page introduction and final chapter ('At the fringe of language') together form a valuable essay on the practical use of language, and I commend them to anyone interested in sharpening their use of the spoken or written word.
0Comment| 18 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 3 November 2016
Its a classic of its guide and will change the way you look at language, scholarship and a great many other subjects. Wish I'd been exposed to this book earlier, but then maybe I wouldn't have got its quiet but persistent challenge to think again about individual words. To adapt the quote from Hartley - The past is a different country , and even when they use a word we are familiar with, they very well may mean something differently by it.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 18 July 2017
Great book, enjoyed it and will, no doubt, read it again. Good service also.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 1 June 2014
I had expected a tome hunting through the etymology of a large number of words. The number is small. However, this was my fault for not reading the description properly!

Fascinating in what IS there.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 16 May 2001
Semantic change - etymology - philology - the history of words, or word-complexes, is often dealt with in a dictionary by an abbreviated form of 'it used to mean X, but now it means Y' explanation, and perhaps this is the most realistic way of handling the matter in a dictionary. Modern linguists have their own rigourous and abstract techniques. But in this intellectually demanding work C. S. Lewis, working at the height of his powers, takes the widest of perspectives, and retains depth of focus. He traces the changing meanings of several words, over the centuries and millennia, from their Greco-Roman and Anglo-Saxon roots to the modern day. The result is valuable exposition, with depth both in psychology and philosophy, and rich in literary source material. The words themselves are treated as living entities, evolving by expansion, contraction, and development of new forms. His chosen words are: 'nature', 'sad', 'wit', 'free', 'sense', 'simple', 'conscience and conscious', 'world', 'life', and 'I dare say'.
As Lewis says, 'The point of view is merely lexical and historical', and 'not an essay in higher linguistics', but this belies the many adventitious benefits that stem from his handling of the resources at his command. His purpose is to give us 'an aid to more accurate reading' and to throw light 'on ideas and sentiments'. I find that in so doing he imparts as much practical technique, knowledge, and enthusiasm for words as a whole year's worth of undergraduate linguistics. For instance, the subtlety of usage of a phrase like 'I dare say' and the potential for even complete reversal in meaning is illustrated through centuries of use from Malory, Dickens, W. S. Gilbert, E. Nesbit, Dorothy L. Sayers, debate in the House of Lords, John Bunyan, and Jane Austen. The result is not a mere catalogue of shades of meaning, but an analysis and satisfying literary work in its own right - and that's just one chapter. The index alone references about two hundred authors from Aeschylus and Augustine to Xenophon and Yeats. The twenty-three page introduction and final chapter ('At the fringe of language') together form a valuable essay on the practical use of language, and I commend them to anyone interested in sharpening their use of the spoken or written word.
0Comment| 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 5 March 2016
Old-fashioned, pompous and too discursive, but I re-read this after 50 odd years with pleasure. Lewis belongs to a distant age of certainty in literary criticism but much of his perception surprisingly still can interest and, sometimes, delight. Reads like a story book!
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 18 December 2014
FANTASTIC -- QUICK DELIVERY OF NEW COPY OF A BRILLIANT BOOK
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 1 March 2016
It's many things, new isn't one of them.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 19 June 2015
Excellent
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Sponsored Links

  (What is this?)