Swift, informative and not too scholarly for general readers.

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SPEAKING AMERICAN

A HISTORY OF ENGLISH IN THE UNITED STATES

A former associate editor of the Oxford Companion to the English Language identifies eight major centers of influence on American English and describes how each has helped shape the tongue of today.

Bailey (Rogue Scholar: The Sinister Life and Celebrated Death of Edward H. Rulloff, 2001, etc.), who died in April 2011, is a genial host in his tour of linguistic history. In his introduction, he places fresh daggers in the heart of the idea that language can somehow be perfected and standardized and celebrates the ability of English to change, adapt, adopt, steal and transform. Then he offers a series of succinct chapters, each focusing on a certain region whose influence on the language has been profound. He begins on the Chesapeake Bay, where the English, American Indians and enslaved Africans converged. He moves on to 17th-century Boston, where he notes the Puritans’ fondness for words of Germanic origin and mentions some Algonquin words that linger in the language (“wigwam,” “squaw”). Next: Charleston, S.C., where the Spanish influence was immense, and “the vocabulary of slavery was deeply embedded.” Philadelphia, writes Bailey, brought together English, Swedes, Germans and Scots-Irish. New Orleans in the early 19th century was “the most compactly multilingual place in the country.” Bailey quotes liberally from English visitor Fanny Trollope, whose 1832 Domestic Manners of the Americans sniffed disdainfully at our linguistic and other inelegancies. In his New York segment, the author revisits the deadly 1849 Shakespeare Riots (should Macbeth speak like an American or Brit?) and cites the influence of journalist/poet William Cullen Bryant. Then it’s Chicago and Los Angeles and the effects of the underworld and pop culture—from Gidget to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Swift, informative and not too scholarly for general readers.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-19-517934-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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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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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

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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