A lascinating fook at yet another revealing instance of human imperfection.

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UM...

SLIPS, STUMBLES, AND VERBAL BLUNDERS, AND WHAT THEY MEAN

It’s eminently normal in speech to slip and blunder and self-correct and elide and, um, well, like, you know…

Texas-based journalist Erard summarizes the history of scholarly and popular interest in verbal slips and offers some disinterested insight into the current passion for parsing (and reproving) our president’s speech. After telling us his analysis is “a work of applied blunderology,” the author zips back in time to introduce William Archibald Spooner (1844–1930), the Oxford don whose legendary—and in some cases apocryphal—blunders gave us spoonerisms (“queer old dean” instead of “dear old queen”). Erard moves on to explain Freudian slips, declaring that slips are “about as ubiquitous as ants at a picnic” in the speech of even the most fluent and educated. The average person commits about one blunder per thousand spoken words, with the very young and the very old being somewhat more prone to error. Much of what Erard learned from research and from the many interviews he conducted is counterintuitive. Nervous people do not say “um” more than calm people, and such pauses actually are signs of thinking, not a lack of it. Pure fluency, even in prepared remarks, is virtually impossible. Perhaps the most interesting chapter is “A Brief History of ‘Um’.” The author perused books on public speaking all the way back to Aristotle and found no condemnations of “um” and its dilatory relatives until fairly recently; he believes radio’s advent in the 1920s prepared the way for our current insistence on verbal perfection. Erard examines our subsequent fondness for bloopers and outtakes, retreats a bit to deplore—uh, explore—malapropisms and even finds time for a nifty allusion to Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People.” His chapter on President Bush examines how Dubya’s supporters and detractors variously view his slips.

A lascinating fook at yet another revealing instance of human imperfection.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-375-42356-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2007

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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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