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Dog Eared

Books we love

History of English, Books

Professor Ann Curzan, the scholar on the history of English we interviewed for last week's Behind The Dictionary feature, recommends these books on the subject:

David Crystal's The Stories of English "is packed with interesting information about the history of English."

Bill Bryson's The Mother Tongue "is a very accessible history of English."

John McWhorter's Word on the Street: Debunking the Myth of "Pure" Standard English "is also accessible and treats both language change and dialectal differences."

Language Myths, edited by Laurie Bauer and Peter Trudgill, "is a collection of short, very smart essays that address a range of myths about language -- language change, dialects, the effects of TV, etc."

"Michael Adams and I have written an introductory textbook about English linguistics that people tell us doesn't read like your average textbook (which was absolutely our goal!): How English Works

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Blog Excerpts

"Out and Loud"

"Almost no exercise will improve your writing more than reading what you write out loud," says PR executive Dan Santow, and "not just meant to be spoken such as speeches and scripts." Dan runs the blog Word Wise, which started as weekly writing tips at his company and spread quickly on the Internet. Lucky for us! Read Dan's entire post on speaking your writing here.
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You may remember an interview we did last year with Katie Raynolds, a remarkable 10th grader and dedicated linguaphile from Seattle, Washington. Well, Katie just spent a busy week with us here at the VT's New York office as our editorial intern! She graciously put together this word list:

I discovered when I searched through the Dept. of Word Lists that they're based on a subject a person is passionate about. So I thought, what is my passion? The answer clearly is: words! I found the following words that serve to describe other words, and I explain how we use them. For some I also included interesting stories about their origins.

Eponym, a name derived from the name of a person (real or imaginary). Examples: Achilles tendon (Achilles the Greek hero), Freudian slip (Sigmund Freud), Louisiana (King Louis XIV).

Onomatopoeia, words that imitate the sound that they denote. Examples: Pow! Bam! (a type of onomatopoeia that was made popular in comic books), chickadee, meow.

Sibilant, a consonant characterized by a hissing sound (like s or sh). The word sibilant comes from the Latin word sibil (hiss), which is actually onomatopoeia for the sounds that a snake makes. Example of sibilance: Sally sells sea shell by the sea shore.

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Professor Anne Curzan of the University of Michigan studies the history of English. "I have a great job," she says, one where she challenges people to rethink their ideas of how language works. In addition to teaching, she co-edits the respected Journal of English Linguistics and is also on the usage panel of the The American Heritage Dictionary. We had a fascinating and wide-ranging conversation with her about the history of English, medieval language, gender in language and more. Our conversation was so intriguing we broke it into two parts. Here's part one:  Continue reading...
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Blog Du Jour

Writers Helping Writers

The authors of these blogs talk about books, writing and the life of a writer, from a "text message novel" to handwriting a novel in a leather bound book...

A-ha!

Cup O' Books

Grumpy Old Bookman

So You Want To Be A Writer

No Rules. Just Write.

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While standing in the checkout line at the grocery store the other day, I spotted the magazine Real Simple. It wasn't just the cutesy name that caught my attention. (How can the editors live with themselves, basing a magazine name on a grammatical error? But I digress...) The eye-catching cover line that grabbed me by the eyeballs was: What can you do in 15 minutes?  Continue reading...
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Katie Raynolds, the high school linguaphile we interviewed in our magazine last year, emailed from Seattle asking if she could intern in our New York office during spring break. Our answer: But of course! Katie just spent a busy and fun week with us. Here's a list of book recommendations for teenagers she put together:

"Just for girls"

Gossip Girl, by Cecily von Ziegesar
"I'm the first to admit that this series is complete fluff; there are no deep, intellectual conversations, no defining moments, and no witty dialogue. However I believe that these books provide a great opportunity for girls that don't normally read. I find that my friends that shun other reading material tend to enjoy this series."

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, by Ann Brashares
"The first of a series of four, this book is a great story about four girls that stay in touch over the summer through a 'magical' pair of pants. There are moments that tempt you to roll your eyes but it remains a sweet story about friendship, travel and the jeans that tie them together."

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, by Louise Rennison
"While the title of this book makes girls in the book store blush, the story behind the title is well worth the embarrassment. Told through the diary of British girl named Georgia, this series had me crying with laughter. Georgia's British slang is so outlandish that each book requires a glossary for translations, yet her story is relatable and risible in any language."

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