Bad English: A History of Linguistic Aggravation

Bad English: A History of Linguistic Aggravation - Ammon Shea Mr. Shea takes an in-depth look at the evolution of our English language. Traveling along an easily understood timeline he looks at words and phrases that began as mistakes and misspeaks yet have now become commonplace and acceptable in both the written and spoken word. And yes, there is a difference in what is acceptable in written and in spoken English. Just to enlighten you a little, “stupider” is not a word and “OMG” is not a 21st century acronym. Language is alive and as such it evolves with the times.

Mr. Shea does not only look at the words themselves but also at punctuation and grammar. Did you know there are seven – SEVEN – acceptable uses for an apostrophe? There are a multitude of words that began life as nouns and now are acceptable to use as verbs and adjectives. And yes, sometimes it is acceptable to split an infinitive. (Currently thumbing my nose at my grade 10 English teacher)

Every good teacher follows a lesson with a quiz, right? Well, Mr. Shea does not deviate and offers a quiz made up of 14 quotations asking his readers to choose which are by Shakespeare and which come from the “disparate world of hi-hop/rap”. As you are muttering the phrase “piece of cake” under your breath, let me tell you, not quite as simple as it sounds.

This book is well researched and Mr. Shea quotes his sources (endlessly).

Irregardless (which I now KNOW is NOT a real word) and probably included as a preventative (which I now also KNOW is NOT a real word) measure to keep his readers from inadvertently making an error, the only fault I could find with this book comes at the end when Mr. Shea sites, defines and gives the appropriate reference for 221 accepted and commonly used words which were once frowned upon, some examples being: vest, upcoming, rotten, ice cream, balding, donate, fine and awful, etc (ekscetera which – I NOW KNOW – is acceptable for use in writing but never in speaking). Although this section was an interesting addition to the book it did seem to go on and on and on and on.

So how did I, a reader of primarily fiction end up with this book on my reading list? As difficult as it may be to believe I recently found myself in a discussion about verbosity, vocabulary, vernacular, comma splices and run on sentences. A few days later I was checking my library site for their newest audio book additions and this one popped up. Coincidence? I think not! I had to give it a listen. It was entertaining and, as much as I hate to admit it, I did learn a thing or two. If you are a constant reader, a writer, a speaker, a teacher or just someone enthralled with this English language we profess to know and understand, this would be a handy reference book to keep on that little shelf close to your desk, maybe between your dictionary and your thesaurus.