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Proper English: Myths and Misunderstandings about Language Paperback – January 5, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0631212690 ISBN-10: 0631212698 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 212 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (January 5, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0631212698
  • ISBN-13: 978-0631212690
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,578,454 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Book Description

This books explores what we believe about language, & why we persist in handing down from generation to generation an odd collection of fact & fantasy about language. It offers a corrective to many of the unsupportable beliefs we hold about language in general & English in particular. It shows how these beliefs originated & offers suggestions for a more enlightened approach.

From the Back Cover

"What is it about our country and our society that our language has become so impoverished, so sloppy and so limited?" The Prince of Wales, 1989

"This is a good time to explore error in English usage. There is a lot of it about." Harry Blamires

"The subject matter of English Philology possesses a strange fascination for the man in the street, but almost everything he thinks and says about it is incredibly and hopelessly wrong." H. C. Wyld, 1921

Most of us have firm convictions about our language, as to what constitutes proper use and what is unacceptable abuse. As children we are taught a great deal about good and bad grammar, correct pronunciation and spelling, and the proper use of words. As adults we constantly encounter books, articles, and letters to newspapers opining about "proper English" and the sorry state of our language.

Yet many statements we believe to be true about language are likely as not false. Much of what we have learnt about language is misdirected; little of it is useful and some may be harmful. Myths and misunderstandings are plentiful. Much that passes for insight and informed comment is palpably wrong.

This books explores why it is we believe what we believe about language, and why we persist in handing down from generation to generation a rag bag collection of fact and fantasy about language. It offers a corrective to many of the unsupportable beliefs we hold about language in general and English in particular. It shows how these beliefs originated and offers suggestions for a more enlightened approach.


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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By T. Hooper on June 24, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this easy to read book, Ronald Wardhaugh disspells some of the most persistent taboos of the English language, for example ending sentences with prepositions. However, in this book you learn that such rules of the grammarian have absolutely nothing to do with English and everything to do with trying to shoehorn English into the form of Latin. Wardhaugh helps the reader to understand that English works the way we use it, and that the grammarian's rules are nothing to be concerned with. It is pointed out that people have been saying that English has been falling apart for over 400 years! However as we can see, English is still alive and kicking. Enjoy English and be creative with it. Push it to its limits. Forget everything your high school English teacher told you, and the sky is the limit.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Brad Johnston on May 30, 2013
Format: Paperback
Proper English: Myths and Misunderstandings, Ronald Wardhaugh, © 1999

Page 6. I remembered a rather long lunch with the socialist Hector Castillo when he HAD SAID the obsessive question for him was whom to blame for all the garbage pickers' misery.
Page 6. He HAD BEEN one of those Juilliard students whom everyone said would make it in the cut-throat concert circuit.
Page 8. My meaning was still very much alive in the variety of English that I HAD LEARNED as a child but it did not exist in the standard variety favored in my school.
Page 26. He preferred to believe that it HAD ORIGINATED to express the passions of love, anger, hate, and joy.
Page 28. Moreover, it HAD certainly CEASED to exist.
Page 32. In England, Samuel Johnson acknowledged in 1747, in the Plan for the dictionary that he was eventually to compile, that humans HAD created the language.

This is only a few of many. This author has a 'had' problem. Buyer beware.
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