Book Report

Time to check in on some of my grammar list reads. I have not made as much progress as I would like to be, but at least I am inching along. 

My first book was A Hog on Ice, & Other Curious Expressions by Charles Earle Funk. You may recognize the name Funk,as Charles was indeed editor-in-chief of the Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary. He wrote six or so more books on word and phrase origins, including Heavens to Betsy, Horsefeathers (always a favorite saying of mine) and Thereby Hangs a Tale. While I have not read this book cover to cover, I have used it several times for my Cliche Sundays. And when bored, it is always fun to flip it open and see what is on the first page you come to! An excellent reference book.

In the middle this week I have the Portable Curmudgeon by Jon Winokur. This is a fantastic book Jon compiled of, as the cover says, world-class grouches.  Between 1986 to 21011, many books on writing carry Jon Winokur’s name. The cover also says that he has been in a bad mood since 1971, which perhaps explains this book 😉  The book is arranged alphabetically, by the quote type. So if you need a curmudgeonly quote on dogs, turn to page 87 and see what Samual Butler, Andy Rooney, Mark Twain and Charles Lamb have to say. On dog owners, Aldous Huxley said: “to his dog, every man is Napoleon; hence the constant popularity of dogs.” I knew I loved my dogs! From abortion and abstract art to youth and yuletide curmudgeons, Mr Winokur has a pithy saying from a famous curmudgeon. Again, not a straight read-through book, but fun to pick a subject and see what Charles de Gaulle or Oscar Wilde had to say about it. Additionally, he had several in-depth interview with such malcontents as Fran Lebowitz and George S Kaufman scattered through the book.

And then there is Fumblerules by William Safire. A New York Times writer, he guarded grammar ferociously for years starting in 1973 with his column “On Language”. He could be quite terse and indeed, bossy, when it came to incorrect use of language. However, his caustic wit is one of the main enjoyments of Fumblerules. Particularly as it is not aimed at anyone specifically, unless you really mess up you grammar.  With section titles like “avoid run-on sentences they are hard to read” and “ixnay on colloquial stuff”, his light-hearted rules lead one through the confusing and sometimes painful rules that make up the English language. He tackles everything from adverbs to hyperbole and onomatopoeia.

    I shall leave you with my favorite title of Mr Safire’s “Better to walk through the valley of the shadow of death than to string prepositional phrases”



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