Continuing the description of books on words and language listed in the introductory post, which you’ll find here.
Book 30: The Last Word.
Hardback, 312 pages. Published in 2009 by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. This is the edition I own and I can’t recall what I paid for it, because it was one of a bundle I bought through a book club. There is a second edition, published in 2010 by the same company. You can buy it new in hardback for £7.30, used from £3.69 and in a Kindle version for £4.83.
Subtitled, Tales from the Tip of the Mother Tongue, it is a collection of the author’s columns from The Times newspaper. Whilst it sports a short Bibliography, there is no Contents list or Index.
This is a true miscellany about the English language. The front flap tells us ‘The Last Word is a collection of pieces that will tease, tickle and tantalise those who enjoy all things lexical.’
I haven’t read it, yet! It’s one of those books I bought simply because it is about our wonderful language. Not a textbook or reference work, it’s a collection of ideas, comments, observations about how we use and abuse the language we rely on for communication, and it’s written in the author’s idiosyncratic style of humour.
Opening at random on pages 152/153, I find the end of a 3-page article headed ‘Judge a book by its cover’. It relates a short history of the book designer, Germano Facetti, who spent his early life in a German prisoner of war camp and was released by the Americans when he was 27. If you’re a reader, you’ve probably come across his work; he designed the Penguin Classics, as Art Director of Penguin from 1962 to 1971. And the article concludes, ‘…(he) helped to make literature unforgettable for the post-war generation.’
Page 153 begins a 4-page article headed ‘Intellectual (n): clever dick, not quite British’ and goes on to describe the prevailing attitude in Britain regarding people with intelligence; ‘The British like to dislike intellectuals.’ Which is still the case. He goes on to give examples of clever British writers and their comments on intellectuals, which are mostly derogatory, and often reveal prejudices those writers were probably unaware they held. The humour is a little caustic, and there’s an element of the self-congratulatory about the pieces that will inevitably raise the hackles of some readers. Others, however, will find much to enjoy here. And I really must get around to reading this!
English is a complex language, made up of words from many countries, and borrows rules of grammar, punctuation and even style from the originating lands, which can make it interestingly familiar to learners but also frequently frustratingly baffling to the same students.
And, for those with a real interest in English and considering their future, here’s a link that suggests the many possible career opportunities open to those with a degree in the subject. It’s also a link to an online university, and therefore an advert for their services. I know nothing of the institution, but the list of possible career choices might be useful.
Earlier posts in the series can be found by clicking on the titles below.
2. A Dictionary of Misunderstood Misused Mispronounced Words.
3. A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English.
4. A Miscellany for Word Lovers.
5. AMERICAN ENGLISH ENGLISH AMERICAN.
6. A Dictionary of Rhyming Slang.
7. Brit-think, American-think.
8. Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors.
9. Collins English Dictionary.
10. Current English Usage.
11. Descriptionary; a Thematic Dictionary.
12. Divided by a Common Language.
13. Eats Shoots & Leaves.
14. English Prepositional Idioms.
15. Fowler’s Modern English Usage.
16. Hart’s Rules for Compositors and Readers.
17. Hartrampf’s Vocabulary Builder.
18. i before e (except after c).
19. Longman Companion to English Literature.
20. New Hart’s Rules.
21. New Nuttall Dictionary of English Synonyms and Antonyms.
22. Oxford Compact Thesaurus.
23. Oxford Dictionary of Current Idiomatic English.
24. Roget’s Thesaurus.
25. Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.
26. The Dictionary of Diseased English.
27. The Elements of Style
28. The Emotion Thesaurus.
29. The Grouchy Grammarian.
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