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A Dictionary of Modern English Usage: The Classic First Edition (Oxford World's Classics) Hardcover – November 23, 2009

ISBN-13: 000-0199535345 ISBN-10: 0199535345 Edition: Reissue

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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Hardcover: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reissue edition (November 23, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199535345
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199535347
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,150,197 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

The classic fist edition with an acute new introduction. New York Times Book Review It is a volume that everyone who aspires to a better command of English should possess and consult. New York Times Book Review

About the Author


David Crystal is honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Bangor, and the author of many books on language in general and the English language in particular, such as The Stories of English (2004), The Fight for English (2006), and Think on My Words: Exploring Shakespeare's Language (2008). His previous lexicographical work includes A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics (6th edn, 2008) and Johnson's Dictionary: an Anthology (2005).

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

79 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Caraculiambro on January 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Here's the deal with Fowler's.

1926: First irascible version of Fowler's "Dictionary of Modern English Usage" published. Owing to the author's idiosyncrasies and clear-headed prescriptions, it earns a place on every writer's shelf.

1965: An new edition comes out, edited by Sir Ernest Gowers. Most people believe Gowers only brought the language up-to-date where absolutely necessary, keeping the spirit of the original intact. In other words, this revision was hailed as welcome and necessary.

1996: Massive overhaul of the text published, edited by the famous Robert W. Burchfield. Burchfield thoroughly changes the language and even the spirit of Fowler's original, resulting in a book that is much more observational than prescriptional. Much of what made the original beloved was excised.

2009: David Crystal digs up the 1926 edition, reprints it, and writes a big honkin' essay at the end, (almost needlessly) justifying the resuscitation of the original.

Thus what we have is generally thought to be superior to the 1996 edition, but I think most writers and editors would have been happy to do without Crystal's contributions and simply had Oxford University Press flood the world with a bunch of reprints of the 1965 edition, which, since that's the one everybody seems to want, is becoming danged hard to find.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Ian Gilbert on December 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fowler's strong and often cranky opinions are all here, expressed in his elegant prose. Notes and other material by David Crystal are all interesting; as always, Crystal knows what he's talking about when he talks about the English language.

The main text of this reprint is an exact copy of my worn, brittle original, except that the new edition ends with the penultimate page, page 741. Page 742 is entirely blank, depriving the reader of Fowler's final entries for "Z", about two-thirds of a page. It looks as though some summer intern or apprentice printer thought that the page had to be blank because it precedes a section of David Crystal's new material.

The book is still entirely worthwhile even without the missing page. One can only wonder what Fowler (and Oxford's printers of yore) would say about the error.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Edwin F. Stevens on February 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Inspired by my acquisition of Fowler's "A Dictionary of Modern English Usage: The Classic First Edition," I have now embarked on reading it from cover to cover. Up to now, I have randomly read, in tattered volumes, a lot of the first edition, but not the entire, delightful work -- with all its captivating obscurities, clarities, inconsistencies, insights, and sly humor.

Much as I admire Fowler, I know this will not be an easy exercise.

Even other admirers, far better language experts than I, warn of difficulties ahead:

For example, here is admirer Sir Ernest Gowers, the first reviser of "Modern English Usage" in 1965:

"What is the secret of [the book's] success? It is not that all Fowler's opinions are unchallengeable. Many have been challenged. It is not that he is always easy reading. At his best he is incomparable. But he never forgot what he calls 'that pestilent fellow the critical reader' who is 'not satisfied with catching the general drift and obvious intention of a sentence' but insists that 'the words used must ... actually yield on scrutiny the desired sense.' There are some passages that only yield it after what the reader may think an excessive amount of scrutiny -- passages demanding hardly less concentration than one of the more obscure sections of a Finance Act, and for the same reason: the determination of the writer to make sure that, when the reader eventually gropes his way to a meaning, it shall be, beyond all possible doubt, the meaning intended by the writer."

Even worse, nonadmirer Brendan Gill, in "Here at The New Yorker,'" savages Harold W.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jerry on January 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Fowler's arguments are impeccable but a huge complaint is that the print is tiny, and the binding is uncomfortably cramped for the huge amount of the content. The next edition should come out with a larger sized paper and the annotations right beneath Fowler's own entries.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Richard H. Cady on May 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A little disappointing as it turns out to be an exact reprint of the Oxford University Press edition of 1926 (the US edition was in 1944). Granted it has added a useful historical 26 page introduction and some 50 pages of interesting notes at the end by David Crystal. These additions actually make this edition worth buying. Even if you own a copy of the earlier printing as I do. Alas, as is all to often these days, I can open my 1950 edition and it STAYS OPEN.Thus making it easy to read and refer to ... I open this new edition and it shuts - closes on its own. Bad binding? Pages cut too tight. To thick a paper stock? Aggravating in the extreme. Particularly in a reference book! Shame on you, Oxford University Press!

Richard Cady

Richard Cady Rare Books
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dolores A. Lindsay on January 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I use this as my primary editing reference. Very thorough, well reasoned. Definitely a riveting book for those of us who love the language and its intricacies.
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