Finding the Write #Words? No. 38: Usage and Abusage

Completing the description of books on words and the English language listed in the introductory post, which you’ll find here.

Book 38: Usage and Abusage

Paperback, 380 pages. Published in 1947 by Hamish Hamilton and reprinted many times. I own the 1978 Penguin edition, which I bought for the princely sum of £1.10. There’s a 1999 version, with 416 pages, available in paperback for £11.99.

The book, written by New-Zealander, Eric Partridge, who attended universities in Queensland and Oxford, presents the items under examination in alphabetical order. This makes it easy to find whatever you seek. It starts with “a, an”and continues until it reaches “Zoilus”, apparently a Greek of the 4th century B.C., who annoyed his compatriots with his criticism of Homer’s invention and grammar.

Opened randomly at pages 188/189, the first entry is “modest is often misused for moderate. The former is defined by The O.E.D. as ‘unobtrusive, retiring, bashful; decorous in manner and conduct; scrupulously chaste in feeling, language and conduct’; the latter as ‘avoiding extremes; of medium or middling size, quality, price, etc.’ – As applied to persons, the two terms have a kindred, though not the same meaning; a ‘modest’ man is naturally of ‘moderate’ language and behaviour, but one has no right to speak of, e.g., ‘a modest rate of interest’.” The final entry on page 189 is “Mr – Write Mr, not Mr.; if you desire pedantic accuracy, write M’r – but nobody does so write it. See MISTER.” The following entry, on page 190, is for “Mrs” and goes on to explain that these terms are abbreviations, not contractions, and therefore the form followed by a full stop is the correct version.

The book is intended to be complementary to H.W. Fowler’s Modern English Usage, which I reviewed here in this series some time ago, but a little less formal. Both, however, are dated now and may be off-putting to a modern readership.

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.

Those learning the English Language will find help on pronunciation here. And you’ll find a friendly group on Facebook through this link.

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.

Three more, very useful, books on word choice for the writer were reviewed by me as separate works. I’ve added links to Kathy Steinemann’s books, The Writer’s Lexicon, The Writer’s Lexicon Volume II, and the Writer’s Body Lexicon, to the list below.

The link to this final post in the series will now be added to my ‘Resources’ page for the use of writers visiting the website in future.

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.
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.
30. The Last Word.
31. The Little Red Writing Book.
32. The Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors.
33. The Oxford Manual of Style.
34. The Oxford Spelling Dictionary.
35. The Penguin Rhyming Dictionary.
36. The Slang Thesaurus.
37. The Synonym Finder.
38. Usage and Abusage.
39. The Writer’s Lexicon.
40. The Writer’s Lexicon Volume II.
41. The Writer’s Body Lexicon.

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