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Junk English Paperback – November 9, 2001


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Paperback, November 9, 2001
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Blast Books; First edition (November 9, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0922233233
  • ISBN-13: 978-0922233236
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #413,979 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Junk English is the linguistic equivalent of junk food," says Ken Smith. "Ingest it long enough and your brain goes soft." Given the ubiquity of "junk English"--which includes pretentious, meaningless, euphemistic, and bloated language--we all likely suffer already from mushy minds. In Junk English, Smith uses real examples to illustrate 120 types of language abuse, including cheapened words (visionary, revolutionary), distraction modifiers (low, just, only), "fat-ass phrases," "free-for-all verbs," "jargon gridlock," "mirage words," "palsy-walsy pitches," "secret snob words," and "tiny type messages." If linguistic abuses were ticketable offenses, Officer Smith would fill his quota before he reached the second paragraph. While the greatest perpetrators of junk English may be business and advertising folk, we're all guilty. So take this as a reminder to say what you mean, and mean what you say, and leave the battlefield language and spiked clichés behind. --Jane Steinberg

From Publishers Weekly

If George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" were updated and expanded to address today's lexical and syntactic problems the tendency to make verbs out of nouns and nouns out of verbs, a general fondness for business-speak and verbal inflation, just to name a few it might look like Junk English. Ken Smith's (Mental Hygiene; Ken's Guide to the Bible) slim volume is a quirky, pleasingly judgmental dictionary of language crimes. From "invisible diminishers" ("virtually flawless") to technology jargon ("It is simply not natural to use feedback for opinion, [or] synthesis for combination"), Smith will delight language purists with his wit while confirming their grave assessments of contemporary speech.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 13, 2001
Ken Smith, in the new critique of sloppy language _Junk English_ (Blast Books), continues an attack that has lasted over a hundred years on a pet peeve of mine, the misuse of the word "unique": "_Unique_, a word that means one of a kind, is freely bandied about by advertising copywriters and others who wish to sell with a certain high status. That so few things really are unique is precisely what gives the word its power. _Unique_'s veracity has been shaved away by phrases such as _practically unique_, _virtually unique_, _somewhat unique_, _most unique_, and so on, which truthfully mean _not_ unique. This is not to say that the products or positions or people being touted are not notable, special, exceptional, fabulous, marvelous, worthy, or rare, but it is highly unlikely that they are in fact unique."
This is not a grammar book, but one which looks at current shoddy word use as a human foible: "It is sometimes innocent, sometimes lazy, sometimes well intended, but most often it is a trick we play on ourselves to make the unremarkable seem important... Junk English is the linguistic equivalent of junk food - ingest it long enough and your brain goes soft." Smith's book is a compilation of examples which he has spotted in print or broadcast, and he has obviously a good ear and eye for them; Smith admits that he uses such phrases, just as everyone does, and reading this book is an exercise in humility, for sometimes only after Smith points out a common usage does it seem junk. For instance, under the section "People Reduction," Smith points out that "people" and "person" are disappearing from usage, replaced by "individual" or "individuals.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Penner on October 25, 2002
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This book is a fascinating and hilarious and at the same time somewhat melancholy examination of where our language is heading and what our culture has done to it. The "militant grammarians" among us, who daily bemoan the casual butchering of linguistic precision, will gasp with wonder and relief that we are not the only ones who notice these barbarities.
Our second reaction, however, is to realize that though we may think we know our language well (and we probably do, compared to our peers), we don't know it nearly as well as we should, or as well as Ken Smith does. We'll see examples in this book of lexical misdeeds that we ourselves commit on a regular basis, and we'll fret, "How can I continue to call myself a stickler for grammar when my perspicacity is not perfect and complete?"
The third reaction, I think, is depression. Smith is certainly right about Junk English, its origins and its consequences. But who cares? Aside from those of us who pay attention (and we're a precious tiny little minority), accuracy in written and spoken English is declasse. I often feel that advertising, PR propaganda, political reportage, and corporate communications are written largely by morons for other morons, so everyone's satisfied. What is to be done? Smith isn't trying to provide a solution to our language's ills, but his focusing on the problem does raise the question.
My mild criticism of the book consists in Smith's apparent lack of patience with whimsy, colloquialism, and artistic embellishment. Sometimes, when we neglect to use the most economical or efficient word, we do so on purpose -- to use the "au courant" argot of a specific constituency, to dress up a sentence for the simple love of language, or just for fun.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By An Avid Fan on April 1, 2002
Excellent. Strunk & White on steroids. And a lot easier to reference than Strunk & White. The alphabetical system makes a lot more sense. Required reading.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By therosen VINE VOICE on June 24, 2003
The author's intention is sound: to rid the world of junk (imprecise) English. The need for this is obvious - even the best writers fall prey to redundant or misused words.
The organization of the book doesn't support such a grand ambition, though. A dictionary format would seem to be a good way to remedy the problem, but the author slips between types of mistakes and specific words. In doing this, the book becomes hard to follow, and lacks a core theory or concept to follow. Instead, it turns into a list of "Don't do this..."
While I applaud the author's intention, and am a better writer (I hope!) for having read this book, I would have appreciated better delivery. This is not in the league of "Elements of Style".
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By James Yanni on October 17, 2005
Smith makes many valid points in this book, detailing many ways in which the language is commonly abused. He doesn't have nearly the sense of humor about the subject as I'd expected, however, and there are a few cases in which I think he disdains a perfectly legitimate usage.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Gregory W. Brown on November 13, 2001
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Junk English is, perhaps, Ken Smith's greatest work to date. Junk English is an interesting and humorous take on the current state of the written English language but more than that it is a reference book that can make you a better writer. Before reading Junk English I was certain that all books that could make a person a better writer had to be dull and lifeless. Junk English shatters that myth in grand style thanks to Ken Smith's wit and writing style. This book will take it's proper place in my library next to my other English reference books but, more than that, it will remain the ONLY book about the English language that was fun to read.
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