Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Patricia T. O'Conner's "Origins of the Specious"

This is a fun read about the English language, misuses and word origins, confusions and bad grammarians, and lots of lovely word play.

This isn't meant to teach you. It is a book to entertain you and get you more aware of the deep history of English and how we oft go astray in our "understandings" of proper word use. Here's an example:
If Americans aren’t sprinkling their English with real or imagined French, they’re mixing both languages in a stew of Franglais. And if a word looks the slightest bit French, we’ll pronounce it like French, even a word that’s been ye olde Englische since Chaucer’s day. I’m thinking of “homage,” which has been part of the English language since 1290. It should be pronounced HOM-idge or OM-idge. Whether or not the h is pronounced, the accent is on the first syllable. The French pronunciation oh-MAHJ is incorrect – and affected to boot – unless you’re in Marseilles (where it’s spelled hommage). Yes we did get “homage” from the French way back when, be we also get “adroit” and “toilet” and “voyage” from them, but we don’t say ah-DWAH, twa-LAY, and vwah-YAZH.
I definitely recommend this book as an entertaining way to while away a day.

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