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

Overview

In 1893, Ambrose Bierce declared "I am for preserving the ancient, primitive distinction between right and wrong." In Write it Right, originally published in 1909, Bierce turned this considerable zeal on the English language. The result revealed that the satirical author of The Devil's Dictionary had a keen ear for the vernacular--and that he hated it. This slim volume of his 300 or so reviled words and expressions contains many we use today with no hesitation at all. (Of "electrocution" he says, "To one having ...
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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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Overview

In 1893, Ambrose Bierce declared "I am for preserving the ancient, primitive distinction between right and wrong." In Write it Right, originally published in 1909, Bierce turned this considerable zeal on the English language. The result revealed that the satirical author of The Devil's Dictionary had a keen ear for the vernacular--and that he hated it. This slim volume of his 300 or so reviled words and expressions contains many we use today with no hesitation at all. (Of "electrocution" he says, "To one having even an elementary knowledge of Latin grammar this word is no less than disgusting, and the thing meant by it is felt to be altogether too good for the word's inventor.") Jan Freeman, author of the weekly column "The Word" for the Boston Globe, annotates Bierce's rulings with style, humor, and in-depth research, revealing what Bierce got right--and what he didn't--and giving insight into how the language has changed over the past century. Write it Right, with its incisive wit and insight into the history of American English, is the perfect gift for word curmudgeons everywhere.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802719706
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 11/19/2009
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • File size: 654 KB

Meet the Author

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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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 12, 2009

    Bierce may or may not be "right," but this book is always interesting

    As someone who enjoys reading books on language usage and word origins, I found this book quite interesting, a quick read. Ambrose Bierce's "Write It Right" was originally published in 1909 as a reference for proper (correct) language usage. Approximately 300 entries were arranged alphabetically. Today, many of the forms Bierce insisted were incorrect are, in fact, in common usage.

    Many of his entries are especially interesting, I think, simply because of his attempts to 'split hairs.' For example, "I am afraid it will rain" is incorrect, according to Bierce. You should instead say "I fear it will rain." Another entry goes into the difference between "generally" and "usually." He also thought the word "pants" (when used instead of "trousers") was vulgar. And he disapproved of using the words "forecasted" and "fix" among others.

    For this new edition of Bierce's book, Jan Freeman has annotated each entry to give more context to the original explanations of the language usage, showing quite often that Bierce was not the expert he claimed to be. For instance, Bierce complained in some of his entries of how America was corrupting the language, when the usage could be found in Samuel Johnson's Dictionary (published 1700s), or even earlier. And he blamed "the weather bureau" for "forecasted," when in fact, it had been used since the 16th century.

    I thought Bierce's "Devil's Dictionary" was wonderful satire, but here he comes off as picky and condescending. (According to another Bierce rule of language, I just misused the word "but" in the sentence above.) Familiarity with Bierce's name is what caught my attention, but Freeman's annotation is what kept me interested in reading. "Write It Right" was first published 100 years ago, and a lot (or maybe not so much, after all) has changed since then.

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