Ambrose Bierce’s Write It Right: The Celebrated Cynic’s Language Peeves Deciphered, Appraised, and Annotated for 21st-Century Readers by Ambrose Bierce

Ambrose Bierce’s Write It Right: The Celebrated Cynic’s Language Peeves Deciphered, Appraised, and Annotated for 21st-Century Readers

Ambrose Bierce and Jan Freeman
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Details

  • ISBN
    9780802717689 / 0802717683
  • Title Ambrose Bierce’s Write It Right: The Celebrated Cynic’s Language Peeves Deciphered, Appraised, and Annotated for 21st-Century Readers
  • Author Ambrose Bierce and Jan Freeman
  • Category Historical & Comparative Linguistics
    History
  • Format
    Hardcover
  • Year 2009
  • Pages 229
  • Publisher
    Walker & Company
  • Imprint Walker & Co
  • Language English
  • Dimensions 140mm x 22mm x 204mm

Annotation

Freeman, one of America's foremost language experts and acclaimed author of the "Boston Globe's" weekly column The Word, presents an annotated edition of Ambrose Bierce's classic catalog of correct speech.

Publisher Description

One of America’s foremost language experts presents an annotated edition of A mbrose Bierce’s classic catalog of correct speech.

Ambrose Bierce is best known for "The Devil's Dictionary," but the prolific journalist, satirist, and fabulist was also a usage maven.  In 1909, he published several hundred of his pet peeves in “Write It Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults.”

Bierce's list includes some distinctions still familiar today—the “which-that” rule, “less” vs. “fewer,” “lie” and "lay — “but it also abounds in now-forgotten shibboleths: ”Ovation,“ the critics of his time agreed, meant a Roman triumph, not a round of applause. ”Reliable“ was an ill-formed coinage, not for the discriminating. ”Donate“ was pretentious, ”jeopardize“ should be ”jeopard,“ ”demean“ meant ”comport oneself,“ not ”belittle.“ And Bierce made up a few peeves of his own for good measure. We should say ”a coating of paint,“ he instructed, not ”a coat.“

To mark the 100th anniversary of ”Write It Right," language columnist Jan Freeman has investigated  where Bierce's rules and taboos originated, how they've fared in the century since the blacklist, and what lies ahead. Will our language quibbles seem as odd in 2109 as Bierce's do today?  From the evidence offered here, it looks like a very good bet.

Review
"When the wisest language maven of this century takes on the wittiest (and most curmudgeonly) of the last one, the result is fantastically entertaining and insightful. You can dip into this book for pleasure, but you will also learn much about language, style, and the dubious authority of self-anointed experts."—Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of “The Language Instinct” and “The Stuff of Thought.” "What fun to see an exceptionally commonsensical modern language critic give a famously crusty old one his due! They should sell tickets."
—Barbara Wallraff, author of “Word Court” "There is much to admire in this little book: the thoroughness of Ms. Freeman's research, her level-headed analysis of Bierce's strictures, and — perhaps the enduring lesson — her insight into the foibles of usagists. If you as an editor or manager have the authority to set yourself up as a tinpot despot on usage (as I was for many years), put this book before you and learn humility."—John McIntyre, “You Don't Say” "Freeman, with her extensive explanations, comes off as the more practical and knowledgeable, but much of Bierce's greatness lies in his biting, snooty formulations. 'Ancestrally vulgar, ' he'll sniff about one word, rolling his eyes ... or 'irreclaimably degenerate.' What fun!" —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn, “Book Bench,” “The New Yorker” "[Bierce] defended what he took to be elite usages; he detested vernacular variants, and he had a special animus against expressions with a whiff of business and commerce (“trade”) about them. Some of his peeves — expressed in High Curmudgeon — were conventional ones at the time, but many were eccentric to the point of idiosyncrasy, and on these the Bierce-Freeman exchanges are especially delightful.—Linguist Arnold Zwicky, “Language Log” “A hundred years ago, knuckle-rapper Ambrose Bierce cranked out a compendium of usage rules: ”Write It Right." Now Jan Freeman, language columnist for

Author Biography

Jan Freeman has worked as an editor at The Real Paper, an alternative weekly; at Boston and Inc. magazines; and at the Boston Globe, where she was a science news editor when she launched “The Word,” her weekly column on English usage, in 1997. She lives in Auburndale, Massachusetts.

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Ambrose Bierce’s Write It Right: The Celebrated Cynic’s Language Peeves Deciphered, Appraised, and Annotated for 21st-Century Readers

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