|Friday, October 24, 2014||Robert Hartwell Fiske, Editor and Publisher|
|January 2014, Vol. 16, No. 1||There are now 89 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 David Galef
Plenty of people have written plenteous articles on words that have dropped from our speech. The tone is often ruefully nostalgic, a middle-aged word-lover sad that a cherished term has either faded from use or else been somehow tainted. At the risk of generalizing, though it's what I love to do, I'd say that words in the modern era leave common parlance for one of three reasons. First, a term may have become archaic, usually a victim of technological progress. How many people know what a greave or a creese is? Since our fights no longer involve suits of armor or swords, this ignorance isn't surprising. Social change also leaves certain words in its wake, such as serf or fief. Second, political correctitude and its euphemisms have forced certain words to hide for shame: no more bums or cripples, for instance. A related trend abducts words for "enlightened" labels that obliterate the old uses. Decades after the gay pride movement delivered its message, it isn't uncommon to hear an old gent annoyed that he can't use the words queer or gay anymore in their old senses. Third, slang and other up-to-the-minute vocabulary quickly become dated. Few people nowadays talk about moxie or pizzazz. More ...
by Mark Halpern and Robert Lane Greene
You and I have engaged in debates on the subject of Prescriptivism and Descriptivism before, both with each other and with others I read with interest your recent debate with Bryan Garner (although it read more like a exchange of love letters than a debate), for example. I'm all in favor of the achievement of peace, or at least an armistice, if it can be done without ignoring or suppressing the issues between us. I don't want a phony peace based on a decision to pretend that if only both sides were reasonable, and agreed to look the other way when necessary, we'd find that there was no real conflict between Descriptivism and Prescriptivism. No doubt some of the issues between us reflect mere misunderstandings more on this later but I believe there are real differences between our two positions, differences that cannot be papered over; on these, one side or the other must yield if the conflict is to end. More ...
by Bill Casselman
Many, many French given names like Édouard, Gérard, Guillaume, Louis, and Richard are pure German in origin. Equally Germanic are thousands of French surnames like Baudin, Géroux, Lambert, and Roget.
Many, many, uneducated French citizens explode into chauvinist rage when told that indisputable historical fact. Mais non! Ce n'est pas possible! These are the same French trash who paraded their bigotry so proudly and so recently in Paris, marching to no avail against gay marriage. One must remind these know-nothings that the Franks were German. Ohé, you know, the people after whom your country is named. Get it? Franks. Les francs. La France. Français. More ...
by David Cay Johnston
Let us praise copy editors and mourn their dwindling numbers.
Copy editors are to writers as nets are to trapeze artists, saving us from typos, careless mistakes, and metaphors so slippery that no reader can grasp their meaning.
Today's Internet is rich with snarky observations highlighting mistakes that, until the last decade, copy editors were paid to catch and block.
As the ranks of copy editors shrivel, the frequency of linguistic crimes will increase, eroding the structure of language and our ability to communicate with one another.
I think of copy editors as the word police, the plainclothes enforcers of the rules of grammar, syntax, and publication style, as well as the checkers of dubious or unattributed fact.
Most of these offenses are unintentional. Still, without copy editors to catch and correct written infractions and felonies alike, our English language will be the victim.
Unpoliced, languages deteriorate. Linguistic anarchy just makes for misunderstanding. More ...
by Richard Lederer
Diogenes (412?323 BCE) of Sinope was an ancient Greek philosopher who rejected the hollow values he saw in Athenian society. One sign of that integrity was his practice of carrying a lantern around Athens in the daytime as he looked for an honest man. He never found one.
I come to you bearing the lantern of language learning. I am pleased to report that, more successfully than Diogenes, I do find men and women, many of them readers of my column, who ...
say and write "Where is he?" without tacking on a gratuitous atMore ...
by James Csank
Jurisdiction is a concept basic to every legal system. It refers to the authority and the power of government. Let me phrase it this way: Jurisdiction concerns whether the government can enforce its laws, where, over whom, and over what subjects.
Where. One aspect of the government's jurisdiction is the geographical area over which it exercises its authority. Cuyahoga County, Ohio is a jurisdiction; it has, within its borders, the city of Cleveland, thirty-seven other cities, nineteen villages, and three townships a total of sixty jurisdictions. There are eighty-seven other counties in Ohio, and forty-nine other states in the Union. More ...
Vocabula RevisitedDorothy Parker and Clapping
by Richard Carter
In this essay, I reflect on one of Dorothy Parker's love poems, "The Small Hours":1
No more my little song comes back;
comparing it favorably with Sappho's lovely poem of the deep night's longing for an absent lover:
The moon's set,
and comparing both of these unfavorably to Andrew Hudgins's counterfeit of a poem, "The Funeral Service,"2 where he rejects the natural silence of a son's grief at his father's death with a disorderly account of the way his particular poetic brilliance trumps a son's feelings: 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 ...
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