Top critical review
18 people found this helpful
Sometimes anguishing, somtimes funny
on August 23, 2005
As a compendium of humorous ways that people misuse the English language, "Anguished English" is comprehensive, if not superb. Lederer treats various categories of language errors - bloopers, mixed metaphors, mistranslations , etc. - in separate chapters. "The World According to Student Bloopers" -- a running history of the world allegedly taken from real student written responses -- is often hilarious. Who knew that King Solomon had 300 wives and 700 porcupines, or that Sir Francis Drake *circumcised* the world with a 100-foot clipper? I also enjoyed the chapter on two-headed headlines, some of which took some work to uncover their second meaning. "IKE SAYS NIXON CAN'T STAND PAT" is fairly obvious, but "CARTER PLANS SWELL DEFICIT" took a second or two to puzzle out.
The biggest drawback to the book is that other than or Lederer's short and sometimes forced introductions to each chapter, the book is basically a series of lists, ordered by topic, with no indication of source. Though written in 1978 before the Internet truly got underway, the book often resembles the annoying "funny" e-mails that circulate today on the web. In Lederer's defense, I suspect that some of today's e-mails are actually rip-off's of "Anguished English." But it would have added to his efforts if he had described the process of accumulating his trove of malapropisms, informing us about the source, rather than just laying them out, naked on the ice, as it were. That would have given the reader a bit more to chew on than the warmed over fare offered here, some of which seem too perfect to be true. For instance, it's hard to believe that the journalist who wrote, "IS THERE A RING OF DEBRIS AROUND URANUS?" didn't know exactly what he/she was doing. Yet this headline is offered as an unintentional mistake.
For all its faults and excesses, "Anguished English" is fun and sometimes interesting. Consider it a good buy for a young person interested in learning the subtleties of the English language by studying its misuse