Most helpful positive review
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
"Language is always changing."
on September 28, 2008
"100 Words Almost Everyone Mispronounces," from the editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries, will be of interest mostly to English teachers, librarians, and others who are meticulous about language. In an age of email and text messaging, correct spelling and pronunciation are becoming increasingly uncommon. The words listed in this book range from the frequently used--such as almond, divisive, harass, and forte--to such uncommon words as antipodes, desuetude, hegemony, and quietus.
This ninth entry in the "100 Words" series contains clearly written definitions, sample sentences, detailed etymologies, and intriguing explanations of how and why a word's pronunciation may change over time. Sometimes, there is no obvious reason for such a change. For example, the word "flaccid" ("lacking firmness, resilience, or muscle tone") used to be pronounced "flaksid," with a "k" sound from the word's Latin derivation. No one knows precisely when or why speakers began to say the double c sound as if it were an s, but now flaccid is commonly pronounced "flasid." Even highly educated readers may be surprised at the correct pronunciation of such words as "detritus" and "puerile," and they will also gain insight into the connection between a word's language of origin and its pronunciation.
Whether you are interested in words for professional reasons, wish to sound more erudite, or are just curious about the vagaries of the English language, this slim and sometimes humorous volume provides entertainment, clearly written and accurate information, and a glimpse into how words have evolved over the centuries. In fact, the editors assure us that "pronunciation is not a matter of absolute authenticity but of broad consensus," so today's mistake may become tomorrow's standard pronunciation.