Snack-food style blends with health-food substance for a most satisfying meal.

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THE ETYMOLOGICON

A CIRCULAR STROLL THROUGH THE HIDDEN CONNECTIONS OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE

Inky Fool blogger Forsyth debuts with a breezy, amusing stroll through the uncommon histories of some common English words.

The British author settled on a clever device to arrange his material—the end of each entry provides a link to the beginning of the next. Forsyth is interested (obsessed?) with words—how they began and how they’ve journeyed to where they now are. He shows us the connection between sausage and Botox, how an expression like point-blank wandered into everyday usage from archery, that poppycock has a scatological history, that Thomas Crapper manufactured a popular brand of toilet, and how Thomas Edison was the first to use bug as a term for something causing a device to malfunction. Although he uses an informal, even snarky, Internet-appropriate style (“Protestants and Catholics got into an awful spat,” he writes of the Reformation), Forsyth carries more weight than his style sometimes suggests. He alludes periodically to Homer, Shakespeare and other literary heavyweights. He knows his history and geography; the style may be lighter-than-air, but the cargo is substantial. Some other goodies: The telephone popularized the word hello; Shell Oil was once in the seashell business; the Romans were the first to raise in derision the middle finger; bunk came from Buncombe, N.C.; Starbucks can be traced not just to Moby-Dick but to the Vikings’ word for a Yorkshire stream. Occasionally, the author missteps. He says that Noah Webster was “an immensely boring man,” a conclusion not supported by Joshua Kendall’s gracefully told The Forgotten Founding Father (2011).

Snack-food style blends with health-food substance for a most satisfying meal.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-425-26079-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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