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Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words

de Bill Bryson

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2,003148,134 (3.68)17
Grammar & Language Usage. Language Arts. Reference. Nonfiction. HTML:One of the English language??s most skilled and beloved writers guides us all toward precise, mistake-free grammar.
As usual Bill Bryson says it best: ??English is a dazzlingly idiosyncratic tongue, full of quirks and irregularities that often seem willfully at odds with logic and common sense. This is a language where ??cleave?? can mean to cut in half or to hold two halves together; where the simple word ??set?? has 126 different meanings as a verb, 58 as a noun, and 10 as a participial adjective; where if you can run fast you are moving swiftly, but if you are stuck fast you are not moving at all; [and] where ??colonel,?? ??freight,?? ??once,?? and ??ache?? are strikingly at odds with their spellings.? As a copy editor for the London Times in the early 1980s, Bill Bryson felt keenly the lack of an easy-to-consult, authoritative guide to avoiding the traps and snares in English, and so he brashly suggested to a publisher that he should write one. Surprisingly, the proposition was accepted, and for ??a sum of money carefully gauged not to cause embarrassment or feelings of overworth,? he proceeded to write that book??his first, inaugurating his stellar career.
Now, a decade and a half later, revised, updated, and thoroughly (but not overly) Americanized, it has become Bryson??s Dictionary of Troublesome Words, more than ever an essential guide to the wonderfully disordered thing that is the English language. With some one thousand entries, from ??a, an? to ??zoom,? that feature real-world examples of questionable usage from an international array of publications, and with a helpful glossary and guide to pronunciation, this precise, prescriptive, and??because it is written by Bill Bryson??often witty book belongs on the desk of every pers
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I found Bill Bryson's, "Notes from a Small Island" to be a comfortable and comforting read during a long period of enforced isolation and mild stress during the Covid 19 pandemic. Reading Bryson is much like visiting with a friend recently returned from a trip abroad. Every page brought a smile and sometimes a laugh and once or twice a belly shaking, knee slapping roar (I'll not reveal the genesis of those, since you may suspect me having of perverted or at least a peculiar risibility.
There is more to this book than the humor and the travelogue: it is a touching insight into the sensibilities of a decent, worthy man.
  RonWelton | Feb 16, 2021 |
Some of this is useful as a reference. Most of it is boring as reading material. It feels like his personal notes on words that bother him, sometimes because he mixes them up, sometimes because others do.

Now and again Bryson shows that he doesn't know German. Baron Munchhausen is known to most German-speakers (legend), not 'almost exclusively in medical circles'. Luxembourg is the French form of the name, Luxemburg the German (not anglicized). Both languages are official in the country that calls itself Groussherzogtum Lëtzebuerg in its own language. Little failures like these in research make me question his other statements.

This refers to the 2015 edition. ( )
  MarthaJeanne | Aug 5, 2017 |
A friend asked if this is worth getting. I replied,

Hm, it's certainly briefer than Garner's modern usage, which I am reading cover to cover. But less meaty might be just right. (In Garner I hiccuped my wonted plodding A-to-Z to see what Garner says about which's increasing use as a conjunction. Surprisingly (to me), he doesn't mention it.)

Some of Bryson's explanations I doubt you need (antennae or antennas, auger v. augur), but your students might. Some I don't care about (short of publication), such as that All Souls College doesn't take an apostrophe. Some are just Bryson's superiority: "Alas! Poor Yorick. I knew him (-well), Horatio" doesn't belong in a dictionary. If he includes that he should include "Play it again, Sam, too" (he doesn't).

Some are his Britishness: He tells how to pronounce British (Gonville and) Caius College and Pall Mall but not Usan places such as Gloucester, Peabody, and Worcester. He gives the spelling bit not the pronunciation f the Welsh word "eisteddfod."

Perhaps a quarter of the entries on nuances of meaning I do appreciate (e.g., ambiguous v. equivocal). I remember being taking to task for writing "complacent" when I meant "complaisant."
  ljhliesl | May 21, 2013 |
Fabulous book for writing starters or just dipping into word meanings and origins and literary connections. ( )
  literateowl | Jan 22, 2013 |
Who knew Bill Bryson started out his career as a copyeditor of the business section at the London Times? I now know the origin of the word "flak" and the meaning of "zoonotic"... A handy guide, to be perused at leisure.
1 vote NeveMaslakovic | Dec 20, 2010 |
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The physicist Richard Feynman once remarked that every time a colleague from the humanities department complained that his students couldn't spell a common word like seize or accommodate, Feynman wanted to reply, "Well there must be somethings wrong with the way you spell it." -Introduction
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Grammar & Language Usage. Language Arts. Reference. Nonfiction. HTML:One of the English language??s most skilled and beloved writers guides us all toward precise, mistake-free grammar.
As usual Bill Bryson says it best: ??English is a dazzlingly idiosyncratic tongue, full of quirks and irregularities that often seem willfully at odds with logic and common sense. This is a language where ??cleave?? can mean to cut in half or to hold two halves together; where the simple word ??set?? has 126 different meanings as a verb, 58 as a noun, and 10 as a participial adjective; where if you can run fast you are moving swiftly, but if you are stuck fast you are not moving at all; [and] where ??colonel,?? ??freight,?? ??once,?? and ??ache?? are strikingly at odds with their spellings.? As a copy editor for the London Times in the early 1980s, Bill Bryson felt keenly the lack of an easy-to-consult, authoritative guide to avoiding the traps and snares in English, and so he brashly suggested to a publisher that he should write one. Surprisingly, the proposition was accepted, and for ??a sum of money carefully gauged not to cause embarrassment or feelings of overworth,? he proceeded to write that book??his first, inaugurating his stellar career.
Now, a decade and a half later, revised, updated, and thoroughly (but not overly) Americanized, it has become Bryson??s Dictionary of Troublesome Words, more than ever an essential guide to the wonderfully disordered thing that is the English language. With some one thousand entries, from ??a, an? to ??zoom,? that feature real-world examples of questionable usage from an international array of publications, and with a helpful glossary and guide to pronunciation, this precise, prescriptive, and??because it is written by Bill Bryson??often witty book belongs on the desk of every pers

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