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Literally, the Best Language Book Ever: Annoying Words and Abused Phrases You Should Never Use Again Paperback – May 6, 2008

3.1 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

aaIf hearing lines such as aI could care lessa and aThis doesnat help the problema drives you bonkers, read up.a
--"Real Simple"

If hearing lines such as I could care less and This doesn t help the problem drives you bonkers, read up.
--"Real Simple"

If hearing lines such as ?I could care less? and ?This doesn?t help the problem? drives you bonkers, read up.?
--"Real Simple"

About the Author

Paul Yeager is the managing editor of Accuweather.com and a freelance writer. As a child, he was annoyed when reading, writing, and arithmetic were referred to as the “Three R’s,” and he hasn’t changed a bit over the years. He lives in Altoona, PA.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: TarcherPerigee (May 6, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399534237
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399534232
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,039,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Wow, was I surprised to see that my report will be in the minority here. I thought more people would leave this book with the same impression I did. I was hanging around at a Barnes and Noble and picked this book up. I enjoyed the first two entries I read, so bought the book for reading in my...ahem, boudoir -- I enjoy books with short sections that can occupy my brief time therein.

The author promises to point out trite and hackneyed abuses of the language, but what I found was a simpleton's guide to expressions that had grown old and repetitive to him. Why would I call the author a simpleton? Because he is just plain wrong on over half of the expressions that he criticizes. He makes fun of some items correctly, such as abuses of "literally" and "unique", or some overworked catchphrases like "Where's the beef?", but then loses it.

Many of the expressions he abhors are actually rich in history, and represent an admirable nod to tradition, human experience, etymology, and different eras. For example, he hates, "Don't count your chickens before they hatch." and says it's silly for modern, urbanized people to be talking about chickens. Really? The "chickens" are from Aesop's Fable 'The Milk Maid' and date back to 600 BC. An old reference, for sure, but I think the expression has proven itself to have some staying power. For this writer to come along and say we should abandon classic references to such seminal works as Aesop's Fables, just because he's bored of hearing it, is just him griping - and demonstrating an ignorance of literature, history, and etymology. How can one write a book on language with that handicap?

Many others of his gripes fall into the "you don't own chickens, so find a better way to express yourself" formula.
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Format: Paperback
While I abhor the misuse of apostrophes as much as the next guy, I don't bear the same indignation over the vernacular use of language, as Yeager does. Casual use of English doesn't always imply the speaker is an uneducated low-brow, as the tone of his book would lead you to believe.

Sure, there are some egregious examples -- using "should of" in place of "should have", for instance, makes me wince -- but many of his peeves are simply common, idiosyncratic usages that aren't all that offensive.

So I wouldn't recommend this book as a "how-not-to" reference for writing, because I think many of its examples are far too restrictive and petty. But it might come in handy as a way to prevent yourself from slipping into habitual, sloppy writing or speaking.
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Format: Paperback
This isn't the typical grammar or language book, which is probably one of the nicest things about it. I liked that instead of dealing with the same grammar errors that every other book deals with (although he does have several chapters on straight grammar errors), the author shines a light on expressions that most of us use every day without thinking.

Some of the entries are the writer's opinion, but so are a lot of the so-called grammar "errors" that I've seen in other books, and some of the entries ARE strict grammar errors that people who really know grammar would agree on. I'm surprised to see some reviewers pick on individual entries from the book; with over 350 entries, who's going to agree with ALL of them! Come on people! The author has a good sense of humor and uses it to get his points across. At least he did for me.

Just read it and enjoy it. It's a funny book. As the author says, he's not trying to be a language dictator; he's just trying to get people to think before speaking.
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Format: Paperback
When I first saw the book advertised, I made a list of the phrases and comments I thought would be covered. While not a comprehensive listing, the author really hit a home run with the breadth of comments. Some of the offending statement do make commentary more colorful but typically, they add words without understanding whether their usage is really critical to the meaning. In a way, this is using the extreme form of euphemisms and, by virtue of doing so, obscuring the meaning of the statement being made. The book does not seem intended to be deeply thought provoking and, while I did not agree with everything, I did find myself strongly agreeing with quite a few of his observations. It can be read quickly in one sitting or can be used to provide shorter, entertaining breaks in your day.

Many of these phrases are just an example of our need to be constantly talking -- constantly making noise in an attempt to turn the right phrase to make us appear glib and entertaining. I enjoyed the author taking apart language as it is commonly used. Was that literally or figuratively taking apart? Read it and decide which is correct.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I saw the table of contents for this book on [...] (the author's site), which was quite helpful because it gave me a better idea of what to expect. The author's writing style is clever and to the point, sometimes irreverent, and insightful and easy to read.

I was surprised to see a reviewer say that it's great for students and catch-phrase-prone people but that there's not much more here than a "smug bit of fun" for those of us who already know more. I think this book is for anyone who's interested in the English language, wants to improve skills, or wants to commiserate about the sorry state of our cliché-stuffed conversations.

How many times do we hear people say `me and my brother went to the store' instead of the grammatically correct `my brother and I went' or hear our boss say the sneaky "why don't you go ahead and..." rather than make a direct request or hear someone use "literally" when giving a figurative example. If making conscious word choices is being a grammar or language snob, then you may gleefully count me in.

This is not a book on how to diagram sentences or construct a paragraph. This is a book that targets specific grammar and language errors and humorously explains why they're either wrong or, when they're not technically wrong, why they're inappropriate or overused.

I have added it to my collection of language favorites!
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