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Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words: A Writer's Guide to Getting It… (edition 2004)

by Bill Bryson

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Member:literateowl
Title:Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words: A Writer's Guide to Getting It Right
Authors:Bill Bryson
Info:Broadway (2004), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library, Currently reading
Rating:****
Tags:etmooc, connectivity

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Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words by Bill Bryson

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A friend asked if this is worth getting. I replied,

Hm, it's certainly briefer than Garner's modern usage, which I am reading cover to cover. But less meaty might be just right. (In Garner I hiccuped my wonted plodding A-to-Z to see what Garner says about which's increasing use as a conjunction. Surprisingly (to me), he doesn't mention it.)

Some of Bryson's explanations I doubt you need (antennae or antennas, auger v. augur), but your students might. Some I don't care about (short of publication), such as that All Souls College doesn't take an apostrophe. Some are just Bryson's superiority: "Alas! Poor Yorick. I knew him (-well), Horatio" doesn't belong in a dictionary. If he includes that he should include "Play it again, Sam, too" (he doesn't).

Some are his Britishness: He tells how to pronounce British (Gonville and) Caius College and Pall Mall but not Usan places such as Gloucester, Peabody, and Worcester. He gives the spelling bit not the pronunciation f the Welsh word "eisteddfod."

Perhaps a quarter of the entries on nuances of meaning I do appreciate (e.g., ambiguous v. equivocal). I remember being taking to task for writing "complacent" when I meant "complaisant."
  ljhliesl | May 21, 2013 |
Fabulous book for writing starters or just dipping into word meanings and origins and literary connections. ( )
  literateowl | Jan 22, 2013 |
Who knew Bill Bryson started out his career as a copyeditor of the business section at the London Times? I now know the origin of the word "flak" and the meaning of "zoonotic"... A handy guide, to be perused at leisure.
1 vote NeveMaslakovic | Dec 20, 2010 |
A great resource for readers and writers, Bryson dissects common and not so common writing mistakes and clearly explains the correct way to address them. Not lost is Bryson's patented sense of humor, either. ;-) ( )
1 vote Oreillynsf | May 22, 2010 |
(Alistair) For those of you wondering whatever happened to my non-fiction progress, it never quite went away. It just slowed down some, which I really must do something about, even if my current non-fiction is a hard enough read not to be one of the quickest.

This slender little volume, its predecessor, is one that actually does me some practical good, too, for the proofreading part of my job, being a collection of many linguistic difficulties that people run into. It's not perfectly aligned with my requirements, since given Mr. Bryson's earlier career it's somewhat slanted to those that come up in journalism (and, indeed, many of the examples of bad usage within the book are headlines or newspaper extracts), but he covers lots of common ground as well that would probably be useful to any English speaker.

Also, as you might expect if you've read any of his other books, particularly Made in America or The Mother Tongue, larded with delightful dry wit and anecdote that make it a pleasure to read, as well as refer to.

Recommended.

( http://weblog.siliconcerebrate.com/cerebrate/2009/04/troublesome_words_bill_brys... ) ( )
1 vote libraryofus | Apr 28, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0767910435, Paperback)

One of the English language’s most skilled and beloved writers guides us all toward precise, mistake-free usage.

As usual Bill Bryson says it best: “English is a dazzlingly idiosyncratic tongue, full of quirks and irregularities that often seem willfully at odds with logic and common sense. This is a language where ‘cleave’ can mean to cut in half or to hold two halves together; where the simple word ‘set’ has 126 different meanings as a verb, 58 as a noun, and 10 as a participial adjective; where if you can run fast you are moving swiftly, but if you are stuck fast you are not moving at all; [and] where ‘colonel,’ ‘freight,’ ‘once,’ and ‘ache’ are strikingly at odds with their spellings.” As a copy editor for the London Times in the early 1980s, Bill Bryson felt keenly the lack of an easy-to-consult, authoritative guide to avoiding the traps and snares in English, and so he brashly suggested to a publisher that he should write one. Surprisingly, the proposition was accepted, and for “a sum of money carefully gauged not to cause embarrassment or feelings of overworth,” he proceeded to write that book–his first, inaugurating his stellar career.

Now, a decade and a half later, revised, updated, and thoroughly (but not overly) Americanized, it has become Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words, more than ever an essential guide to the wonderfully disordered thing that is the English language. With some one thousand entries, from “a, an” to “zoom,” that feature real-world examples of questionable usage from an international array of publications, and with a helpful glossary and guide to pronunciation, this precise, prescriptive, and–because it is written by Bill Bryson–often witty book belongs on the desk of every person who cares enough about the language not to maul or misuse or distort it.


From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:57:53 -0400)

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A revised and updated edition of a humorous primer on the English language.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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