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

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

by Ambrose Bierce, Jan Freeman
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Steven Pinker
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.
author of "Word Court" Barbara Wallraff
What fun to see an exceptionally commonsensical modern language critic give a famously crusty old one his due! They should sell tickets.
Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn
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!
Linguist Arnold Zwicky
[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.
Rob Kyffe
A hundred years ago, knuckle-rapper Ambrose Bierce cranked out a compendium of usage rules: Write It Right. Now Jan Freeman, language columnist for the Boston Globe, has published an annotated version of Bierce's bugbears: Ambrose Bierce's Write It Right. You'll savor Freeman's bright and breezy commentary on Bierce's often daffy dicta.
Geoffrey K. Pullum
Ambrose Bierce's classic little book of Victorian-era grammar-grouchery lays down the law in a series of opinions that range from the conventional to the goofy. Jan Freeman's light-hearted look at how his edicts have fared a century later will be an eye-opener to those who confuse their specific language peeves with eternal truths.
Erin McKean
Bierce's collection of because-I-said-so strictures is an education in the persnickety side of English usage, but Jan Freeman's commentary on Bierce is truly enlightening, not just about the language but about how people judge the language.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802717689
Publisher:
Walker & Company
Publication date:
11/10/2009
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

In The Devil's Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?), defined cynic as "a blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be"--a description he strove to embody throughout his long and witty career. His writing includes journalism, poetry, satire, and fiction, much of it based on his Civil War experience. In 1913 he set off for Mexico, then in the throes of revolution, and was never seen again.

Jan Freeman has been writing "The Word," the Boston Globe's Sunday language column, since 1997. A lifelong usage geek with a graduate degree in English, she has worked as an editor at the Real Paper, Boston and Inc. magazines, and the Boston Globe.. She lives in Newton, Mass.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >