Mind the Gaffe!: A Troubleshooter's Guide to English Style and Usage

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9780061132209: Mind the Gaffe!: A Troubleshooter's Guide to English Style and Usage

A linguist with attitude, R. L. Trask was a steadfast soldier in the never-ending War of Words, fighting the good fight for standard written English. Revered for its insight and legendary for its "cheek," Trask's Mind the Gaffe! is an indispensable guidebook for wordsmiths and language mavens of every stripe, providing safe passage through the ubiquitous minefields of improper usage.

  • Artiste: This pretentious word . . . commonly means "fraud pretending to be an artist." Don't use it unless you mean to be insulting.

  • Amoral, Immoral: An amoral person is one who does not know the difference between right and wrong. An immoral person knows the difference but does wrong anyway.

  • Reaction: A reaction is a sudden and spontaneous response to a stimulus, such as jumping, shrieking, or fainting. The word is not properly used as a fancy word for any kind of considered response. If you circulate a policy document, you can ask others for their opinions, or for their criticisms, but do not ask them for their reactions unless you hope to hear responses like "I burst into uncontrollable laughter."

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About the Author:

One of the most celebrated linguists of his time, R. L. Trask was a brilliant lecturer and the author of many popular works, including The Penguin Guide to Punctuation and The Penguin Dictionary of English Grammar. Born in New York State in 1944, he lived in England after 1970, and was Professor of Linguistics at the University of Sussex until his death in 2004.

From Booklist:

Like Lynne Truss in her best-selling Eats, Shoots & Leaves (2004), the late Trask, an American linguist who relocated to England in 1970, brings an irreverent, opinionated sensibility to his usage handbook. Arranged in alphabetical order, the entries in this style guide cover the gamut of common lapses in the use of standard English in lively, candid language. In addition to defining the difference betweenaffect and effect and knowing when to use who and whom, Trask offers this opinion on the termfeminism: "so much sludge now appears in print, littered with invocations of 'herstory,' 'the Goddess,' and 'feminist science,' . . . that real feminism is in danger of being submerged." Trask has also taken it as his mission to confront the "jargon-ridden, buzzword--laden, content-free writing" that surrounds us in the form of junk mail, fawning celebrity pieces, and "New Age dross." Some readers may regard Trask's opinions as maddening, whereas others will find them refreshing, but there's sure to be agreement that this handy guide is thought-provoking. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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