The Miss Grundy grammarians in the crowd may not always like Hitchings’ line of argument, which some will find shockingly...




Caring about the propriety and properness of language is so gay.

Those are fighting words. In fact, there are fighting words in just about every utterance we make. But, observes Evening Standard theater critic Hitchings (The Secret Life of Words, 2008, etc.), some words are fighting-er than others. “When I was younger,” he writes (the author was born in 1974), “one of the most common complaints I heard about any aspect of the English language was the change in the use of the word gay.” No longer a word meaning “merry” among the oldsters, “gay” had come to mean something else—though it had come to mean that something else well before World War II and had just taken time to catch up. “Experience suggests”—not “past experience,” which is redundant—“that you can always start a row by staking a claim about English usage,” he writes. And he’s right. Go around insisting that “data” must be always a plural, agreeing with the plural verb form—“the data are convincing”—and you’ll wind up with a mouthful of loose teeth one day; go around using “gay” flippantly, and you’ll be branded as incorrect and worse. But proscriptive and prescriptive grammarians have been with us always, or at least since the Georgian age, when Britons seemed very ill at ease speaking their mother tongue and a catastrophic social faux pas was always only a syllable away. Hitchings is good on the history of that dis-ease, and though he lacks the zest of some of the old-timey word writers, from Edwin Newman to the sainted H.L. Mencken, he acquits himself well on the use, misuse, disuse and abuse of English grammar over the centuries.

The Miss Grundy grammarians in the crowd may not always like Hitchings’ line of argument, which some will find shockingly permissive because realistic. But word lovers will.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-18329-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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