|Thursday, December 18, 2014||Robert Hartwell Fiske, Editor and Publisher|
|February 2014, Vol. 16, No. 2||There are now 118 people reading Vocabula.||ISSN 1542-7080|
Robert Hartwell Fiske's Dictionary of Unendurable English
A Compendium of Mistakes in Grammar, Usage, and Spelling with Commentary on Lexicographers and Linguists
However curmudgeonly, Mr. Fiske betrays a bluff humanitarian spirit. ... Fiske wants to save the English language. And he knows that he can count on little help. "Dictionaries have virtually no standards, offer scant guidance, and advance only misunderstanding." His own flogging of Merriam-Webster's is one of the many pleasures of this lovely, sour, virtuous book. Wall Street Journal
To the Point: A Dictionary of Concise Writing
The essential guide to writing succinctly
To the Point: A Dictionary of Concise Writing is the perfect reference book for anyone who wants to communicate more effectively through clear and beautiful prose. In this freshly updated edition that features hundreds of new entries, Robert Hartwell Fiske lays out multiple lines of attack against verbiage. He starts by training writers, new or experienced, to tackle wordy trends in their work. His "Dictionary of Concise Writing" helps them identify and correct or delete thousands of specific redundant phrases. In addition, writers can turn to the new "Guide to Obfuscation: A Reverse Dictionary" to build a more pithy vocabulary. Filled with real-world examples that provide clarity and context for Fiske's rules of concision, this is a writer's sharpest weapon against verbosity.
by Bill Casselman
Today is for all the non-athletic persons who could not dribble a basketball in high school and who were consequently branded fags, weaklings, pussies, lisping sissies, milksops, titsucks, momma's-boys by the chest-thumping high-school jocks who rule the corridors and testosterone-damp changing rooms of North American secondary schools. Today we remember how competitive athletics in the West began in ancient Greece as homosexual obsessional sessions with young nude boys of graceful limb and plump buttock.
Consider first the short-form word gym and its ancestor Latin gymnasium from Greek γυμνάσιον, gumnasion, "nude place." Gymnos, γυμνός, is the Greek adjective for bare-naked.
The literal meaning of gymnast is "one who exercises in the nude." Gymnasion was the place where muscular young boys and lithe adolescents exercised in the nude while older men stood on the sidelines leering at the boys' genitals, salivating and becoming sexually aroused. More ...
by John Kilgore
Do languages exist? You can make a case a hard-headed, nominalist, existentialist sort of case that they do not, especially, except in a vague descriptive sense. Partly in a spirit of devil's advocacy, here goes.
Ferdinand Saussure, the great Swiss linguist, elaborated a key distinction between langue (language itself, in a timeless snapshot) and parole (speech, unfolding in time). Clear enough; but which of these do we intend when we speak of "the English language"? Do we mean the sum of English speaking, or a very small body of abstract relationships distilled from all that evanescent performance? Language in action, or in the intervals when it seems to vanish into a realm of pure ideas? Apparently we mean both, but it is an odd sort of something that can exist in such different ways. Dodging in and out of time, appearing and vanishing, language seems to behave like one of those incomprehensible particles the physicists are always chasing. More ...
by Skip Eisiminger
Don't get the wrong idea, but I seem to be drawn to men with unisex names. One of these, named Claire, went for an MRI recently to see about some abdominal-area pain. A few days later, the doctor who'd read the scans called and said, "I'm sorry, Ma'am, but we have not been able to locate your uterus."
"Perhaps," said the patient, "my lawyer can explain that Mr. Claire Casson doesn't have one."
Then there's Col. Beverly Sterrit. Though he had the good sense to take "Ben" as a nickname, the army took slight notice of it. After his release from a Japanese POW camp in 1945, the army reassigned him to Ft. Benning. He reported to his new quarters and discovered to his delight that they were in the WAC billets. The female NCO in charge directed him to the bachelor officer's quarters, but Beverly pulled rank on the sergeant and stayed until the MPs escorted him away. More ...
by Richard Lederer
The tradition of sending Valentine's cards did not become widespread in the United States until the 1850s, when Esther A. Howland began mass-producing them. Since then, millions of Valentine's Day greetings cards have been exchanged, electronically and otherwise. Here's how various people, monsters, and animals wish their lovers a happy Valentine's Day:
a caveman: "Come to my man cave, where I can give you some uggs and kisses!"More ...
by James Csank
A fiduciary is a person (this includes a corporate person such as a bank) who handles the affairs of another (the principal). Most commonly it is the other's business or financial affairs that are involved, but this authority can include personal matters involving health and well-being. The fiduciary is an agent who must put his principal's affairs, his benefit, his good, before his own. He owes his principal honesty, candor, and good faith. He is not a guarantor of success, but he must do his best in carrying out the principal's business. This is a high standard, imposed and enforced by law. If the fiduciary fails to carry out his duties, or if he violates the obligations of good faith, he is answerable in court and a judgment for damages may be entered against him or, if circumstances warrant, he may be found guilty of a crime. Judgments against a fiduciary arising from his breach of his fiduciary obligations are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.
There are several members of the fiduciary family. More ...
by Clark Elder Morrow
When it comes to which writer of classic literature is the most insightful and perspicacious in regard to money matters, there is, in effect, a Trinity: Charles Dickens, Honoré de Balzac, and Anthony Trollope. I think there can be little dispute that these three tower above all others the only real point open to debate is which of them is the preeminent "money man." And what do I mean by that?
Each of these men came from backgrounds of humiliating poverty. Though Balzac's family was, eventually, more or less middle class, his father had had to work his way up from deprivation with great effort, and determined the young Honore would learn the value of money deliberately kept from giving his son any cash while the youngster was away at school. This had the predictable result of keeping Balzac in deep embarrassment. It was an experience he never forgot, and it colored his view of money in his later life and writings. The childhood horrors faced by the young Dickens in the blacking factory, and of his father's arrest for indebtedness, are too well known to detail here. These traumas left their inexorable scars, and once again shaped the young writer's attitude toward money, an attitude that crops up repeatedly in the novels. Trollope's father was a serial failure at various endeavors: he failed as a lawyer, failed at his investments, lost an expected inheritance, and failed as a farmer. Trollope's mother had to take up the career of writer in order to support the family. At Harrow and Winchester schools, Anthony felt humiliated by the state of his family's finances (and by the state of his clothes and appearance) among the hosts of aristocratic young men that surrounded him. Again, the scars went deep, and the never-subsiding echoes of that original degradation went on through a lifetime. More ...
Vocabula RevisitedThe Ultimate Legal Thriller
by Kevin Mims
While picking through a box full of books at a yard sale many years ago, I came across a 1951 edition of Black's Law Dictionary with a price I couldn't resist: free. Although I'm not a lawyer, my battered old Black's, with the green imitation-leather binding, has been one of my favorite reference books almost since the moment I first opened it all those years ago.
One of the joys of browsing through an old dictionary is the encounter with strange-sounding words and oddball definitions. Black's 1951 edition has plenty of both. But it has much more to offer than your ordinary half-century-old reference book. Black's contains a wealth of epigrams, historical facts, cultural revelations, word histories, sound advice, mystical observations, and more. It contains horrifying descriptions of torture devices that will give you more chills than all the legal thrillers ever penned by Grisham or Turow. With its myriad terms dedicated to defining the legal status of women through the centuries, the book provides an inadvertent history of sexism in Western Civilization. It also contains thousands of antique Latin expressions, many of which have applications that go well beyond their strict legal interpretations. Some of these expressions contain words of wisdom that wouldn't be out of place in the Book of Proverbs or a collection of pithy aphorisms. I've sometimes thought of compiling a book called Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Black's Law Dictionary. Here are just a few examples of the kind of advice for living to be found in Black's 1951 edition. More ...
People long to write a clear, a readable, even, at times, an elegant sentence. In "Toward the Making of a Sentence," we talk about the style and sound, the grammar and punctuation, the words and meaning of a sentence. More ...
Inadequate though they may be, words distinguish us from all other living things. Indeed, our worth is partly in our words. Effective use of language clear writing and speaking is a measure of our humanness. What's more, the more words we know and can correctly use, the broader will be our understanding of self, the keener our acquaintance with humankind. More ...
Free in VocabulaBest Words
Love a word? Tell us what it is and perhaps we'll add it to our list of Best Words. There need not be any well-reasoned analysis of your high regard for a word; emotional reactions to the sound or meaning of words are welcome. If a word you love is already listed, you are welcome to tell us why you, too, love the word. The Best Words have an aura of fun or majesty. More ...
Free in VocabulaWorst Words
Hate a word? Tell us what it is and perhaps we'll add it to our list of Worst Words. There need not be any well-reasoned analysis of your distaste for a word; visceral reactions to the sound or meaning of words are welcome. If a word you hate is already listed, you are welcome to tell us why you, too, hate the word. The Worst Words have an aura of foolishness or odium. More ...
Free in VocabulaTVR Radio 2
We welcome your submitting MP3 recordings of literary essays or poems to TVR Radio 2. If we like your recording, we'll add it to our database. More ...
No More Price Increases
No More Advertisements
The Vocabula Review
Ask your library to buy a site license to The Vocabula Review.