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A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (Oxford…

A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (Oxford Language Classics) (edition 1994)

by Henry Fowler

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725 p.
  BmoreMetroCouncil | Feb 9, 2017 |
I love this book whole-heartedly.
I won't pretend that with this one work you can leap from ignorance to expert knowledge, but if you already have a fair grasp of good usage, and are willing to have to look up the occasional technical term, this is an invaluable guide to the points you sometimes doubt, or know from practice but have never entirely understood.
The age of this edition is no hindrance in this. I find that on occasions when I need to be absolutely right, what I really need to do is to be acceptable to the irritable-retired-colonel type, and as he had his schooling before this edition was printed, it is entirely modern enough.
It is also well worth keeping to hand to browse when the mood takes you. In a way that seems uncommon in newer technical works the personality of the expert author shines through. He is passionate and knowledgeable and he wants to share, and to educate, and above all to help. He is sympathetic and helpful, never patronising or arrogant. He has warmth and charm, and a certain dry humour. Best and rarest of all, for a grammatical expert, he hates pedantry, accepts change, and explains in detail why you may split as many infinitives as you wish.
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1 vote AlexBrightsmith | Jun 6, 2013 |
Always informative, sometimes delightfully witty and a bit snobbish. ( )
  bookcrazed | Dec 7, 2011 |
The standard usage manual when I was in school, this is now hopelessly out-dated. If you want a reference book to use with your own writing, I recommend Merriam Webster's Dictionary of English Usage. However, as several other reviewers point out, if you're looking at English historically, this is an extremely interesting book. ( )
  aulsmith | Jul 15, 2010 |
Very excited to find this copy of the 1926 first edition of Fowler's indispensable guide at the Ann Arbor District Library book sale on Saturday.
  wfzimmerman | May 4, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Fowler, H. W.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Crystal, DavidEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gowers, ErnestEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Preface to the first edition:

First words
PREFACE TO THE REVISED EDITION [1965, 2nd edition]: 
'It took the world by storm' said The Times, in its obituary notice of H. W. Fowler, about The King's English, published by him and his younger brother Frank in 1906. That description might have been more fitly applied to the reception of A Dictionary of Modern English Usage which followed twenty years later...
a, an. A is used before all consonants except silent h (a history, an hour); an was formerly usual before an unaccented syllable beginning with h and is still often seen and heard (an historian an hotel, an hysterical scene, an hereditary title, an habitual offender).
fissionable is a word that was coined by atomic scientists for their own purposes and met with some criticism. But plenty of our adjectives are made that way - questionable, objectionable, impressionable, etc., and it must be presumed that the old word fissile did not give them quite the meaning they wanted.
Under way (not weigh) is the right phrase for in motion; it has nothing to do with the anchor's being aweigh. Strictly a vessel is under way when she is not at anchor or made fast or aground; she may be under way and yet have no way on her.
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Disambiguation notice
A Dictionary of Modern English was originally written by Henry Watson Fowler and published in 1926. Revisions were made by Sir Ernest Gowers for the 2nd Edition, published in 1965, but these revisions kept the vast majority of Fowler's work intact and did not alter the approach of the work. A third edition by R. W. Burchfield was in fact a completely rewritten work that dramatically altered even the objective of the work.

As a result, the third edition is a separate work, while the Gowers revision is catalogued (at least for the time being) with the original edition by Fowler.
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Guide to the correct use of the English language in speech or writing.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0192813897, Paperback)

A guide to precise phrases, grammar, and pronunciation can be key; it can even be admired. But beloved? Yet from its first appearance in 1926, Fowler's was just that. Henry Watson Fowler initially aimed his Dictionary of Modern English Usage, as he wrote to his publishers in 1911, at "the half-educated Englishman of literary proclivities who wants to know Can I say so-&-so?" He was of course obsessed with, in Swift's phrase, "proper words in their proper places." But having been a schoolmaster, Fowler knew that liberal doses of style, wit, and caprice would keep his manual off the shelf and in writers' hands. He also felt that description must accompany prescription, and that advocating pedantic "superstitions" and "fetishes" would be to no one's advantage. Adepts will have their favorite inconsequential entries--from burgle to brood, truffle to turgid. Would that we could quote them all, but we can't resist a couple. Here Fowler lays into dedicated:
He is that rara avis a dedicated boxer. The sporting correspondent who wrote this evidently does not see why the literary critics should have a monopoly of this favourite word of theirs, though he does not seem to think that it will be greatly needed in his branch of the business.
Needless to say, later on rara avis is also smacked upside the head! And practically fares no better: "It is unfortunate that practically should have escaped from its true meaning into something like its opposite," Fowler begins. But our linguistic hero also knew full well when to put a crimp on comedy. Some phrases and proper uses, it's clear, would always be worth fighting for, and the guide thus ranges from brief definitions to involved articles. Archaisms, for instance, he considered safe only in the hands of the experienced, and meaningless words, especially those used by the young, "are perhaps more suitable for the psychologist than for the philologist." Well, youth might respond, "Whatever!"--though only after examining the keen differences between that phrase and what ever. (One can only imagine what Fowler would have made of our late-20th-century abuses of like.) This is where Robert Burchfield's 1996 third edition comes in. Yes, Fowler lost the fight for one r in guerrilla and didn't fare too well when it came to quashing such vogue words as smear and seminal. But he knew--and makes us ever aware--that language is a living, breathing (and occasionally suffocating) thing, and we hope that he would have welcomed any and all revisions. Fowlerphiles will want to keep their first (if they're very lucky) or second editions at hand, but should look to Burchfield for new entries on such phrases as gay, iron curtain, and inchoate--not to mention girl. --Kerry Fried

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:12 -0400)

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"No book had more influence on twentieth-century attitudes to the English language in Britain than Henry Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage. It rapidly became the standard work of reference for the correct use of English in terms of choice of words, grammar, and style. Much loved for his firm opinions, passion, and dry humour, Fowler has stood the test of time and is still considered the best arbiter of good practice. Now one of today's leading experts on the language, David Crystal, has reassessed Fowler's contribution in this fascinating new edition. Crystal goes beyond the popular mythology surrounding Fowler's reputation to retrace his method and practice and arrive at a fresh evaluation of his place in the history of linguistic thought. With a wealth of entertaining examples he looks at Fowler's stated principles and the tensions between his prescriptive and descriptive temperaments. He reaches some surprising conclusions and shows that the Dictionary does a great deal more than make normative recommendations and express private opinions. In addition he offers a modern perspective in notes on some 300 entries, in which he shows how English has changed since the 1920s, including the pronunciation of certain words."--Publisher's website.… (more)

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