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The Lexicographer's Dilemma: The Evolution of 'Proper' English, from Shakespeare to South Park von [Lynch, Jack]
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The Lexicographer's Dilemma: The Evolution of 'Proper' English, from Shakespeare to South Park Kindle Edition

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Länge: 336 Seiten Word Wise: Aktiviert Verbesserter Schriftsatz: Aktiviert
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Sprache: Englisch

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“Lynch’s highly readable book will appeal to all users of the English language, from word buffs to scholars alike.”—"Library Journal"

“Lynch recognizes that grace, clarity, and precision of expression are paramount. His many well-chosen and entertaining examples support his conclusion that prescriptions and pedantry will always give way to change, and that we should stop fretting, relax, and embrace it.”—"Boston"" Globe"

“In his sprightly new history of the notion of ‘proper’ English … Lynch [asks] us all to calm down, please, and recognize that ‘proper’ English is a recent and changeable institution.”—"Salon"

"Lynch's highly readable book will appeal to all users of the English language, from word buffs to scholars alike."--"Library Journal"

"Lynch recognizes that grace, clarity, and precision of expression are paramount. His many well-chosen and entertaining examples support his conclusion that prescriptions and pedantry will always give way to change, and that we should stop fretting, relax, and embrace it."--"Boston"" Globe"

"In his sprightly new history of the notion of 'proper' English ... Lynch [asks] us all to calm down, please, and recognize that 'proper' English is a recent and changeable institution."--"Salon"

Lynch's highly readable book will appeal to all users of the English language, from word buffs to scholars alike. "Library Journal"

Lynch recognizes that grace, clarity, and precision of expression are paramount. His many well-chosen and entertaining examples support his conclusion that prescriptions and pedantry will always give way to change, and that we should stop fretting, relax, and embrace it. "Boston Globe"

In his sprightly new history of the notion of proper' English Lynch [asks] us all to calm down, please, and recognize that proper' English is a recent and changeable institution. "Salon""


In its long history, the English language has had many lawmakers--those who have tried to regulate or otherwise organize the way we speak. Proper Words in Proper Places offers the first narrative history of these endeavors and shows clearly that what we now regard as the only "correct" way to speak emerged out of specific historical and social conditions over the course of centuries. As historian Jack Lynch has discovered, every rule has a human history and the characters peopling his narrative are as interesting for their obsession as for their erudition: the sharp-tongued satirist Jonathan Swift, who called for a government-sponsored academy to issue rulings on the language; the polymath Samuel Johnson, who put dictionaries on a new footing; the eccentric Hebraist Robert Lowth, the first modern to understand the workings of biblical poetry; the crackpot linguist John Horne Tooke, whose bizarre theories continue to baffle scholars; the chemist and theologian Joseph Priestly, whose political radicalism prompted violent riots; the ever-crotchety Noah Webster, who worked to Americanize the English language; the long-bearded lexicographer James A. H. Murray, who devoted his life to a survey of the entire language in the Oxford English Dictionary; and the playwright George Bernard Shaw, who worked without success to make English spelling rational.

Grammatical "rules" or "laws" are not like the law of gravity, or even laws against murder and theft--they're more like rules of etiquette, made by fallible people and subject to change. Witty, smart, full of passion for the world's language, Proper Words in Proper Places will entertain and educate in equal measure.


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Dateigröße: 1135 KB
  • Seitenzahl der Print-Ausgabe: 336 Seiten
  • Verlag: Walker Books; Auflage: 1 (3. November 2009)
  • Verkauf durch: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ASIN: B002WOD95K
  • Text-to-Speech (Vorlesemodus): Nicht aktiviert
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  • Word Wise: Aktiviert
  • Verbesserter Schriftsatz: Aktiviert
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  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: #490.713 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop)

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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) HASH(0x968ce174) von 5 Sternen 33 Rezensionen
55 von 56 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x94ebadb0) von 5 Sternen Enlightening, enjoyable, entertaining 26. November 2009
Von Laura Probst - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
One might expect the first adjective, but certainly not the other two when describing a book on the subjects of linguistics and lexicography. However, I believe that this book will not only appeal to those familiar with these subjects, but also to those taking their first foray into the territory. This isn't some fusty old textbook, laying out the history of the English language, invasion to invasion, scribe to Gutenberg. Instead, it's a jolly romp through the trials and travails of those intimately involved with the attempt to categorize, curtail, and clean up our messy, confusing English language; from the curmudgeonly to confused, from shy to boastful, from historically famous to those left behind as mere footnotes. The biggest selling point is the fact that modern contributors to English aren't ignored, glossed over, or treated as a pox upon our "noble" language. Many familiar names are referenced alongside (or, more accurately, right after) the more sedate, historical personages such as Samuel Johnson and Noah Webster: George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, Quentin Tarantino--those who, in their own colorful, creative, and ofttimes controversial way, continue to shape what we know as "good" English and "bad" English. And, yes, that includes South Park. The phenomenon brought about by the Internet Age--blogging, texting, Tweeting--all those activities supported by a vast multitude of unnamed persons who support these endeavors with their own shorthand versions of English, also earns a place in the lineage of our language.

Upon reading this book, I realized something very important: Nothing is new. From the dawn of language itself, people have been bemoaning its demise. Every generation worries that the one coming up behind them is going to hell in a handbasket--and taking the English language with it. I admit, I'm a language prude. I wince at text-speak, I rave madly when someone uses a word or phrase incorrectly, at least, incorrectly to my thinking; I try not to leave participles dangling or split my infinitives. The lesson of this book, however, is that English is a mutable language. It can be used, or abused, in the most extreme fashion, yet it will always bounce back and remain steady, if not always comprehensible to the elder generation. So, the lesson I've learned is that I, and all others who bemoan the imminent demise of English, should just chillax (a slang word I would have never deemed worth using before this point). I can't say I'll ever go out of my way to use split infinitives, dangling participles, or double (or triple or even quadruple) negatives. However, knowing that all of these grammatical "errors" have pedigreed pasts, going back to Shakespeare and Chaucer (who appears to be a master of the quadruple negative), I won't feel as though I'm committing a capital offense if one happens to slip into my writing or conversation. Even the dreaded ain't has a place in this world. English has the near-miraculous ability to be combined in almost infinite ways to create new words. Those words may only be one-offs, created as literary puns or linguistic exercises; they may end up as dictionary staples. The point is, English is flexible and fun. We can rail against its quirks, its bizarre spellings which don't match pronunciations, or, conversely, too many spellings which match a single pronunciation, but without its inherent freedom of expression, we would be lost without it.
26 von 27 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x94ebc1a4) von 5 Sternen Of "Grammar, And Nonsense, And Learning" 28. November 2009
Von Rob Szarka - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
I'll admit it: I'm a word-nerd. But even if you're not the sort of person who reads Fowler for fun, there's much here to delight anyone who loves language. If you've ever wondered what that "p" is doing in "receipt", or argued with a friend over the status of "ain't", you're sure to enjoy this book.

The "dilemma" in the title refers to the tension between descriptive and prescriptive approaches to English usage and grammar: between documenting the way English is actually written or spoken and enforcing someone's idea of "proper" English. Although he's also the author of The English Language: A User's Guide, Lynch is no narrow-minded prescriptivist. As he writes in the concluding chapter: "Speaking and writing our own language shouldn't be a chore; we should resist all attempts to make us feel ashamed of speaking the way the rest of the world speaks." At the same time, Lynch treats the oft-maligned "18th-century grammarians" fairly, presenting them as more than caricatures and giving historical context for their efforts.

The Lexicographer's Dilemma is fascinating because it touches on so many subjects in the course of exploring this central theme: from the great dictionaries and the people who edited them to the vagaries of English orthography and the many, futile attempts to reform it; from Dryden and Swift to George Carlin. Though I found the final three chapters less interesting (and a bit preachy), I found most of the book as gripping as a well-plotted novel. I also learned a great deal, despite a life-long fascination with the subject matter and a shelf full of similar books. Finally, Lynch's own writing is clear and full of good humor.

Lynch covers much ground in under 300 pages, but I did find one omission surprising: although he discusses split infinitives and sentence-ending prepositions, he remains silent on the ever-controversial third-person indefinite singular pronoun. A balanced, informed discussion of the history behind "he" vs. "they" would make a valuable addition to the book.

In short: here's a book about English that's more fun than a barrel full of monkeys typing Shakespeare!
11 von 12 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x94ebd684) von 5 Sternen English and class anxiety 31. Dezember 2009
Von S. Gustafson - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
The curious thing about the prescriptive tradition of English language punditry is not that it exists. Every widely used written language develops one, because they all exist on a continuum of formal versus colloquial styles. Written language cannot fully express some communication strategies used in spoken language, and therefore needs new ones. No, what makes the English language tradition of stylistic guidance different is the peculiar vehemence and rancor its more recent exponents use in delivering their judgments.

To me, the most interesting point this book makes is to set out the origin of the tradition in class anxiety. When kings were kings and lords were lords, they had no need to be anxious as to whether their usage was "correct" or not. Rather, the rise of a newly literate middle class caused anxiety over appropriate style and grammar to arise. People whose grandparents had no need for reading or writing wanted to be certain that their written text conformed to prestige varieties of English, and thus became consumers of dictionaries, works of instruction on prose models, and style guides. Prof. Lynch, a Samuel Johnson scholar whose previous works include a selection of gems from Johnson's dictionary, is well situated to give an account of this process.

In one standard narrative, "eighteenth century grammarians" are made the villains of this process. This book debunks that narrative. These grammarians were not a pack of self-important schoolmasters enforcing arbitrary decrees with rod and cane. They were, in fact, first rate minds. They included Joseph Priestley, the chemist who caused no end of trouble with his invention of oxygen; and Robert Lowth, a less well known name, but one of the period's profoundest Old Testament scholars. Their stylistic judgments were for the most part founded in observation, and more importantly, presented as stylistic guidance rather than moral judgments. They had no distorted view of the issues they addressed; they merely rejected some colloquial usage as being wrong for a formal style.

The rancor and *ipse dixits* came later. It was not enough to make stylistic judgments as to levels of desired formality. The uses appropriate to a formal style got changed into rules, so that schoolteachers could use them to grade with. This turned them from "formal vs. informal" to "right vs. wrong". This set up an unfortunate dynamic. Attempting to refocus on what was really at stake (whether a piece of prose was appropriate in style for its audience and subject) and to describe the language as an entity continuing to develop -- all of these things were recast as a rise of "permissive" standards, a slack and anarchic upstart that threatened the establishment of Authority and Tradition. This gave English style guidance a political dimension, and as such raised the level of tension beyond anything appropriate to the subject.

Now, more than ever, in an era of buzzwords, TLAs, depersonalizing constructions, inappropriate abstractions, and glittering generalities, we need an intelligent rebirth of an English prescriptive tradition. It's a vital part of informed and critical reading, needed to see past verbal sleight of hand acts. But we need to develop that while recognizing that English does in fact continue to develop, and without losing sight of the actual goals and real issues addressed by this sort of linguistic commentary.
21 von 25 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x94ebd378) von 5 Sternen Speaking good vs. Writing Well 12. November 2009
Von Waldo Lydecker - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
A learned yet accessible book on the modern history of the English language, which gloriously has resisted true standardization to this day -- which allows it to remain alive and to be enjoyed by George Carlin no less than William Safire. Explains the tension between "norma loquendi" and the "King's English", between the descriptive and the prescriptive. I particularly enjoyed the deep dive into the nature of certain iconic grammatical "rules", how they came to be, and why they are usually ill-founded. Usage is what ultimately matters, and Henry Watson Fowler's (and his followers, such as Strunk and White) instructions to be direct, simple, brief, vigorous and lucid can hardly be improved on. Lynch provides us with five grounds to object to a word, phrase or usage: taste, authority, etymology, analogy, and logic. Always appropriate to keep in mind when speaking or writing.
4 von 4 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x94ebd9f0) von 5 Sternen An interesting & entertaining account of the people & events that shaped the lexicographic tools of the English language 14. November 2010
Von Amazon Customer - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
This book gives an interesting and entertaining account of the major people and events that shaped the lexicographic tools of the English language - dictionaries, thesauruses and grammars. It says little about pronunciation, which is quite understandable as the spoken language is worth a book in itself.

Much of the book deals with struggles between descriptivists who just want to describe the language, and prescriptivists who want to lay down the correct use of English. This essentially class struggle has been going on for centuries.

The book sides with the descriptivists, with the proviso that while there is no "correct" English, there are certainly "appropriate" Englishes depending on the context. One would not expect the President of the US to give his inauguration address in Ebonics, for example.

The chapter "Expletive Deleted" is particularly entertaining, with some very funny stories. Unfortunately I dare not risk giving examples for fear that Amazon censoring algorithms will reject this review completely.

This chapter deals with the battle among dictionary publishers and the public over how (or if) to treat very "naughty words" in dictionaries. All of the four-letter words appear in this chapter, together with the rather silly euphemisms employed to disguise the actual words. Why write f**k instead of - well, you get the picture!

But even the "naughty words" change over time and it is difficult for English speakers today to understand the outrage that greeted the use of "bloody" in Shaw's play Pygmalion. Similarly, racist words have become a lightning rod for language thought police. I would have liked the author to discuss this a bit more, especially silly attempts to clean up children's books by euphemising racist terms.

The book covers all the major lexicographical figures, such as Johnson, Roget, Webster and the 18th century grammarians, as well as the major milestones in written English - Johnson's dictionary, Websters dictionary Roget's Thesaurus and the Oxford English Dictionary.

However, it is a pity he omitted any mention of William Chester Minor, a surgeon who ultimately contributed a very large number of words to the Oxford English Dictionary. After serving as a surgeon in the US Civil War, he was eventually confined to Broadmoor insane asylum suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, from where he made his contributions to the OED and also cut off his own penis. See [...] for more details, or read "The surgeon of Crowthorne", by Simon Winchester, for his biography.

I liked the book and I think it is worth the money.
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