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Far from the Madding Gerund and Other Dispatches from Language Log 1st Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1590280553
ISBN-10: 1590280555
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  • Far from the Madding Gerund and Other Dispatches from Language Log
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"'Far from the Madding Gerund' is exuberant, tart, and totally addictive." -- Jan Freeman, language columnist, The Boston Globe

"Far from the Madding Gerund" is exuberant, tart, and totally addictive. -- Jan Freeman, language columnist, The Boston Globe

"Liberman and Pullum cleverly dismantle the sturdiest language myths." -- Nathan Bierma, “On Language” columnist, Chicago Tribune

"This is a lively and insightful collection of observations about language, from real language mavens." -- Steven Pinker, author of The Language Instinct

"With 'Madding Gerund' and Language Log, descriptivists have finally found articulate, entertaining, and often acerbic champions." -- Robert Lane Greene, Slate

Liberman and Pullum cleverly dismantle the sturdiest language myths. -- Nathan Bierma, “On Language” columnist, Chicago Tribune

“Opinionated, clever and intelligent, this assortment of pieces is entertaining and enlightening.” -- Marilyn Dahl, Shelf Awareness

“Think of it as a bathroom book for wordsmiths and literary gossip hounds.” -- Ellen Heltzel, Critical Mass

“With its witty, stylish writing, the book is even better than I thought it would be.” -- Katie Haegele, The Philadelphia Inquirer

“With ‘Madding Gerund’ and Language Log, descriptivists have finally found articulate, entertaining, and often acerbic champions.” -- Robert Lane Greene, Slate

About the Author

Geoffrey K. Pullum earned his B.A. in Language at the University of York in 1972 and his Ph.D. in General Linguistics at the University of London four years later. After teaching at University College London for seven years he moved to the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he served as Dean of Graduate Studies and Research for six years and is currently Professor of Linguistics. He was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences in 1990 91. His numerous publications cover not only syntactic theory and English grammar but also on a large number of other topics in linguistics. His books include Generalized Phrase Structure Grammar (1985, with Gazdar, Klein, and Sag) and a collection of satirical essays on linguistics, The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax (1991).
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: William, James & Company; 1 edition (May 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590280555
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590280553
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #568,476 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I write for most of the day, every day. That's my chosen occupation, to write content for web pages. I was therefore quite interested in Far from the Madding Gerund, which is a collection of blog entries from the Language Log. I normally don't have much free time to read blogs, and the book form seemed to be a nice way to read snippets during breakfast or other non-computer times.

I found a lot of really interesting information pieces in here. There's discussion about Dan Brown and the DaVinci Code, and the many flaws in Dan's writing style. There is commentary about various political leaders. There are nit-picky (to most of us, at least) arguments about how often X word is used instead of Y word. It's interesting that as "proof" they turn to Google to see which is used most often. Since a large number of web pages are created by illiterate young teenagers, I don't think I'd ever use a random Google search as a sign of anything :) Heck, if we went by Google, then the most important issues facing the world today involve Paris Hilton and a baby born in Africa.

But the real problem I had with the book, while it's a really cool concept, is that it is pretty much a verbatim dump of the blog. I'm talking straight to the book, with sentences such as:

"Follow-ups in our pages and elsewhere (here, here, here, here, here) discussed many cases of developments of a different kind ..."

The five "heres" are all in light grey text, meaning a little sidebar gives a one-line summary of that thread's topic and then gives you a (I kid you not) 63 character long URL that you have to type in to see what the reference is. On a blog, this works fine - you hit the link and go read the reference. In a book?? You completely miss half the story.
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Format: Paperback
When I found out that I was going to get the opportunity to review Far From the Madding Gerund, I was a bit intimidated. I had a mental image of two men who would pick my review apart, pointing out every misplaced modifier. And God forbid I would ever end a sentence with a preposition. So I dug out my ancient copy of Strunk and White's Elements of Style and set it next to my computer, ready to refer to as I wrote.

Then I began reading the book. On page 5, Strunk and White are called "perennially clueless." And it gets better from there. I gleefully tossed my ancient copy back into the hole from which I had pulled it, and settled in for an enjoyable read. I also promptly subscribed the the RSS feed for The Language Log -- which only makes sense. The book is a collection of posts from the blog. Not just random posts, though, but a "best of" compilation that fans of The Language Log will enjoy. It will quickly get newcomers hooked on the blog.

But the target audience is not language pedants -- those people who never split their infinitives, or dangle their participles. Those people who know that a preposition is not the sort of thing with which to end a sentence. In fact, Liberman and Pullum will raise the ire of liguistic prescriptivists. They split infinitives. They break rules. And they make people think and laugh at the same time, which is important.

Just a few examples of targets that get skewered in the book (and on the blog):

* Those who mock George W.
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Format: Paperback
Mark Liberman and Geoffrey K. Pullum could be accused of making the best of an already satisfactory situation in publishing this book that reiterates their ongoing blog on linguistics. But for this reader, having never visited their blog (until now), this book is a treasure trove of quips and oops and pooh bahs and evidences of the strangely twisted manner in which we communicate.

Written in a casual style that makes the faux pas revelations more cogent, the authors share embarrassingly poor writing from the media, from authors, from those in control of the country (as though the mentality of the US might somehow be reflected in the malapropisms of George W. ...Yikes!), and yet reading this blogline of information never seems vitriolic. Criticism is one of the most substantial ways to create change and hopefully this book and blogline will focus many minds on the misuse of the English language, perhaps effecting some much needed corrections.

FAR FROM THE MADDING GERUND (didn't you always wonder why Thomas Hardy used that word in the title of his great novel 'Far from the Madding Crowd'?) is a book to pleasure the mind - and humor - and a fine resource for perusing before writing or speaking to a group of wise souls. So maybe it is a print form of a blogline, but for those of us who tire of wading through the computer for reading, it is a complete (?compleat?) pleasure! Grady Harp, June 06
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Format: Paperback
Language Log is an on-line magazine founded by Mark Liberman and Geoffrey Pullum, specifically dealing with the right and wrong way to use language (the polite kind mostly.) More than two million people have ventured through the virtual doors of the site since launch time, and this book is made up of excerpts from the site, neatly categorized into printed chapters for those who can't retain everything they read and need some back-up to tame that madding gerund.

I'm not a blog person, preferring the feel of a crisp piece of paper between my fingers (and the computer is a trifle uncomfortable and hard to balance for reading in bed), but be warned that the information here is taken directly from the internet, and it contains links which unfortunately can't yet be accessed from printed pages.

Written by the aforementioned duo, who happen to be Professors of Linguistics, this book aims to share observations about everyday topics like the quality of Dan Brown's writing style, Bushisms, popular malapropisms (say that six times fast - I dare you), grammar and the rules of writing fiction, but targets the more general audience of the linguistically-challenged.

For a preview of the content of the book you can always check the website, but if you've a yen for the printed word, this is a handy reference tool.

Amanda Richards, June 24, 2006
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