Ammon Shea's enjoyable, witty new book Bad English: A History of Linguistic Aggravation shows that English isn't really bad at all — despite what legions of gripers and nitpickers have to say. Armed with facts and historical context, Shea gives readers an informed and enjoyable tour of the issues that annoy people the most about language.  Continue reading...

If you have any interest in apologies, language as performance, or politics, you'll enjoy Edwin L. Battistella's Sorry About That: The Language of Public Apologies. This is a terrific book, full of compelling examples and expert analysis. Reading this book will not only help you become better at making a mea culpa: you'll become a sharper observer of other people's apologies too.  Continue reading...

Whorfianism — the idea that language shapes thought, and each language creates a distinct worldview — is an appealing idea. But there's one problem: Whorfianism, at least dogmatic Whorfianism, is a huge load of bunk, at least according to John McWhorter's new book The Language Hoax: Why the World Looks the Same in Any Language.  Continue reading...

As Black History Month comes to a close, we are proud to feature a fantastic new reference book: Bartlett's Familiar Black Quotations. As Henry Louis Gates, Jr. states in the foreword, it is an "impressively researched and documented collection of the finest thought produced by writers throughout the African diaspora." Here we present an excerpt from the preface by the book's editor, Retha Powers.  Continue reading...

Wit lovers rejoice! There's a new edition (the fifth) of The Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations. Gyles Brandreth has taken the editorial reins from the late Ned Sherrin, and the new edition fine-tunes what was already an impressive and entertaining reference work.  Continue reading...

The Crossword Revolution

Dec. 21, 2013 marks the hundredth anniversary of the crossword puzzle. But the crossword has come a long way since Arthur Wynne's first creation for The New York World. In a lively new book entitled The Curious History of the Crossword, Ben Tausig, himself a noted constructor and editor of crosswords, argues that the day Will Shortz took over the New York Times crossword 20 years ago marked a watershed moment in the puzzle's history.  Continue reading...

In 1835, Charles Follen wrote, "The German language is sufficiently copious and productive, to furnish native words for any idea that can be expressed at all." In Schottenfreude: German Words for the Human Condition, Ben Schott proves Follen correct, while establishing himself as the Rich Hall of German with this wonderful collection of Sniglet-like terms.  Continue reading...

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