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A Man of My Words - Reflections on the English Language
by Richard Lederer
St. Martin's Press
ISBN 0-312-31786-7
Published October 2005 - Paperback (Reprint) - 288 pages - $13.95

I'm late in getting to this book as it's already in reprint, but better late than never.  I'm so glad I did, though.  A self-confessed "... as a fly-by-the-roof-of-the-mouth, user-friendly wizard of idiom," author Richard Lederer very cleverly points out many mistakes we make when speaking (and writing) English, which are hilarious.  He also writes about the origins of many words and how many foreign words became part of our everyday vocabulary.  The difference between British English and American English - I speak the former, and I respectfully disagree with a couple of "translations" - I've never seen wagon as waggon - buses are buses in the city but coaches when they go from city to city (as in luxury coaches).  Shrimp in the UK are smaller than the in US and thus larger shrimp are called prawns.  I love the Cockney rhyming slang - now I realize why (via my grandmother) I use some of the words that I do.  For example: I'm on my pat; I'll make some Rosie; Use your loaf; My plates are killing me.  I found the development of the American language interesting too, and now more "odd" words and phrases make a little more sense.  My favorite (or should I say favourite) chapter is Stamp Out Fadspeak - even though I admit I use a few (only a few) clichés, they basically irritate the you-know-what out of me.  Americanisms I can't come to terms with, are the words gotten, dove instead of dive, spit (past tense) instead of spat, and the "me and him" syndrome.  The misuse of lie and lay also gets my goat.  Normality and normalcy is another irritation.  Mr. Lederer gives the many meanings some particular words have, which understandably confuses foreigners learning English.  The "i before e except after c" section will open your eyes!  My other pet peeve is when nouns are turned into verbs, i.e. winterize and weatherize, among many more.  I wish there were more Mr. Lederers to teach kids how to speak and write properly.  I loved "Having a sharp tongue can cut your own throat" - words to live by.
Oh heavens, I hope this isn't too horribly written.  Visit Mr. Lederer's Website.
Conclusion - Everyone should read this book.  If nothing else, you may increase your vocabulary and cut out all the "ahs", "you knows", and "ums".  Not a bad thing.

"Thanks for your lovely review of my A MAN OF MY WORDS.  I sincerely appreciate your support of my career-capping reflections on the English language as I believe that the more we can learn about language the more we learn about ourselves."  Richard Lederer

Interview with Author


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