When the wisest language maven of this century takes on the wittiest (and most curmudgeonly) of the last one, the result is fantastically entertaining and insightful. You can dip into this book for pleasure, but you will also learn much about language, style, and the dubious authority of self-anointed experts. (Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of The Language Instinct and The Stuff of Thought.)
What fun to see an exceptionally commonsensical modern language critic give a famously crusty old one his due! They should sell tickets. (Barbara Wallraff, author of "Word Court")
Freeman, with her extensive explanations, comes off as the more practical and knowledgeable, but much of Bierce's greatness lies in his biting, snooty formulations. 'Ancestrally vulgar,' he'll sniff about one word, rolling his eyes … or 'irreclaimably degenerate.' What fun! (Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn, "Book Bench," The New Yorker)
[Bierce] defended what he took to be elite usages; he detested vernacular variants, and he had a special animus against expressions with a whiff of business and commerce ("trade") about them. Some of his peeves -- expressed in High Curmudgeon--were conventional ones at the time, but many were eccentric to the point of idiosyncrasy, and on these the Bierce-Freeman exchanges are especially delightful. (Linguist Arnold Zwicky, "Language Log")
A hundred years ago, knuckle-rapper Ambrose Bierce cranked out a compendium of usage rules: Write It Right. Now Jan Freeman, language columnist for the Boston Globe, has published an annotated version of Bierce's bugbears: Ambrose Bierce's Write It Right. You'll savor Freeman's bright and breezy commentary on Bierce's often daffy dicta. (Rob Kyffe, "The Word Guy")
Ambrose Bierce's classic little book of Victorian-era grammar-grouchery lays down the law in a series of opinions that range from the conventional to the goofy. Jan Freeman's light-hearted look at how his edicts have fared a century later will be an eye-opener to those who confuse their specific language peeves with eternal truths. (Geoffrey K. Pullum, Head of Linguistics and English Language, University of Edinburgh, coauthor of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, and cofounder of Language Log)
Bierce's collection of because-I-said-so strictures is an education in the persnickety side of English usage, but Jan Freeman's commentary on Bierce is truly enlightening, not just about the language but about how people judge the language. (Erin McKean, lexicographer, CEO of Wordnik)
About the Author
In The Devil's Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?), defined cynic as "a blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be"--a description he strove to embody throughout his long and witty career. His writing includes journalism, poetry, satire, and fiction, much of it based on his Civil War experience. In 1913 he set off for Mexico, then in the throes of revolution, and was never seen again.
Jan Freeman has been writing "The Word," the Boston Globe's Sunday language column, since 1997. A lifelong usage geek with a graduate degree in English, she has worked as an editor at the Real Paper, Boston and Inc. magazines, and the Boston Globe.. She lives in Newton, Mass.