Weeds in the Garden of Words: Further Observations on the Tangled History of the English Language Review
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Taking a completely different approach from verbal hygienists (Burridge's phrase) such as the ever-cranky Lynne Truss (Eats, Shoots & Leaves), Burridge observes the evolution of English, without making judgments. She discovers that quite often, what is now considered correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, or pronunciation, used to be considered wrong. And vice versa. Because language is always changing, it's difficult to pin it down at any point in time and declare once and for all that the double negative is wrong and that the direct object form of "who" must be "whom." When people are using "incorrect" English every day and still managing to communicate effectively, who's to say what's wrong?
Well, there are always plenty of self-appointed fusspots and arbiters of linguistic goodness (as Burridge calls them) who want everyone to follow the rules they learned when they were in school. I suspect that the only people who read that type of book are people who already know the rules and just want to catch the author in a mistake.
For those who are interested in what unpredictable routes the English language is taking, Weeds is an entertaining collection of short essays that Burridge originally presented on the radio. She explores new words such as "earworm," a term for the tune you get into your head and can't get out. She muses over new trends such as the tendency to pronounce words such as "assume" as "ashoom." And she compares the different ways English is used in the United Kingdom, the United States, and in Australia (Burridge is Australian).
As a recovering stickler, I enjoyed reading this enthusiastic celebration of English in all its forms.
Weeds in the Garden of Words: Further Observations on the Tangled History of the English Language OverviewKate Burridge follows the international success of Blooming English with another entertaining excursion into the ever-changing nature of the complex and captivating English language. If language is a glorious garden, filled with exotic hybrids as well as traditional heritage specimens, then weeds will also thrive on its fertile grounds. Linguistic weeds may be defined as pronunciations or constructions that are no longer used. For example, Burridge points out how "aint" or double negatives were at one time quite acceptable in everyday speaking and writing but are now classified as "weeds" that should no longer have a place in our vocabulary. And, as she so deftly accomplished in Blooming English, Burridge goes on here to further celebrate our capacity to play with language, and to examine the ways we use it: in slang and jargon, swearing, speaking the unspeakable, or concealing unpleasant or inconvenient facts. In this new volume she gives us another fun and informative work for enjoyable browsing; for discovering intriguing trivia about language, history, and social customs; and for employing as a peerless weapon in word games. Kate Burridge is the Chair of Linguistics at Monash University and a regular presenter of segments on the Australian Broadcast Company.
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