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The English language is a battlefield. Since the age of Shakespeare, arguments over correct usage have been bitter, and have always really been about contesting values—morality, politics, and class. The Language Wars examines the present state of the conflict, its history, and its future. Above all, it uses the past as a way of illuminating the present. Moving chronologically, the book explores the most persistent issues to do with English and unpacks the history of “proper” usage. Where did these ideas spring ...
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The English language is a battlefield. Since the age of Shakespeare, arguments over correct usage have been bitter, and have always really been about contesting values—morality, politics, and class. The Language Wars examines the present state of the conflict, its history, and its future. Above all, it uses the past as a way of illuminating the present. Moving chronologically, the book explores the most persistent issues to do with English and unpacks the history of “proper” usage. Where did these ideas spring from? Who has been on the front lines in the language wars?
The Language Wars examines grammar rules, regional accents, swearing, spelling, dictionaries, political correctness, and the role of electronic media in reshaping language. It also takes a look at such details as the split infinitive, elocution, and text messaging. Peopled with intriguing characters such as Jonathan Swift, Lewis Carroll, and Lenny Bruce, The Language Wars is an essential volume for anyone interested in the state of the English language today or its future.
"Hitchings has prepared a turducken of language-history entrées. Consuming one layer, we discover another, and another. And we feast."---The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Thoroughly charming…A rich history of English and the shifting rule books for its correctness…Hitchings cautions readers to take care, not in the way of the ‘grumblers, fault-finders, quibblers and mud-slingers,’ but following the example of Orwell, in using language to be clear, to be honest, to connect with each other."---The Boston Globe
"Hitchings has earned a place at the head table of contemporary linguists."---The Denver Post
"Mr. Hitchings’s trenchant prose is irresistible."---The Baltimore Sun
"Extraordinary…Chock-full of historical and literary references, The Language Wars is a fascinating, eye-opening look at the evolution of the English language."---The Huffington Post
"Crisply written, amusing, informative, and thought-provoking. Anyone interested in the English language and its history should read it."---The Sunday Telegraph (London)
Excerpted from The Language Wars by Henry Hitchings Copyright © 2011 by Henry Hitchings. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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1 'To boldly go' 1
2 The survival machine 15
3 The emergence of English 26
4 From Queen Elizabeth to John Locke 37
5 Hitting le jackpot 51
6 The rough magic of English spelling 61
7 The many advantages of a good language 76
8 'Bishop Lowth was a fool' 88
9 O my America, my new found land! 104
10 The long shadow of Lindley Murray 122
11 The pedigree of nations 133
12 Of fish-knives and fist-fucks 143
13 'Our blood, our language, our institutions' 161
14 Organizing the Victorian treasure-house 170
15 The warden of English 182
16 'Speak that I may see thee' 191
17 Talking proper 203
18 The alphabet and the goddess 215
19 Modern life is rubbish 227
20 Unholy shit 237
21 'It's English-Only here' 252
22 The comma flaps its wings 261
23 Flaunting the rules 270
24 Technology says 'whatever' 290
25 'Conquer English to Make China Strong' 300
26 What do we do with the flowing face of nature? 310
27 Such, such are the joys 321
28 Envoi 333
Bibliography of works consulted 365