Between You and I: A Little Book of Bad English Review

Between You and I: A Little Book of Bad English
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Between You and I: A Little Book of Bad English ReviewI have to admit I enjoy reading slim volumes like this that focus on language, whether it's the misuse of commonly used words or untranslatable words from another culture or when to insert commas. In the spirit of Lynne Truss's "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" and Christopher Moore's "In Other Words", James Cochrane covers roughly two hundred words, phrases, and expressions that are frequently misused, mispronounced, or misspelled. In many cases, Cochrane, an editor at Penguin Books, gives real-world examples from people who really should know better: writers, journalists, broadcasters, and other public figures. Throughout, his style is light and readable. As usual with these types of books, he can come across as pedantic and prescriptive, but on the whole he gets the right tone to ingratiate the reader.
Cochrane arranges the book alphabetically, with a couple of paragraphs describing each entry and the common error attached to it. I received the most value from the sections highlighting frequently confused words. Cochrane tells the reader how to choose the correct term from pairs such as comprised and composed, discrete and discreet, flout and flaunt, who and whom, and even some you probably thought you understood like envy and jealousy. Other sections of value focus on his mission to stamp out the redundancy in expressions like free gift, ongoing situation, and at this moment in time. Another area of concern for the author is the misuse of plurals. He points out that bacterium is the singular form of bacteria, criterion of criteria, stratum of strata, phenomenon of phenomena and a new one for me, graffito for graffiti. There are some random jewels to be mined here, for example, the mistaken use of alibi to mean any excuse, rather than a plea that when the crime was committed the suspect was somewhere else; or the misuse of "epicenter" to mean simply a center, rather than the technical sense of the point on the Earth's surface immediately above the origin of an earthquake; or stating the oft-turned phrase of "a panacea for all ills" is a redundancy since a panacea is already a universal cure. Many more await the reader, and if you're like me, your paranoia will increase with what will come out of your mouth as a result. A genuinely entertaining read if not in the same league as the gold standard on such breeches, Stunk and White's "Elements of Style".Between You and I: A Little Book of Bad English Overview

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