Bad English: A History Of Linguistic Aggravation by Ammon SheaBad English: A History Of Linguistic Aggravation by Ammon Shea

Bad English: A History Of Linguistic Aggravation

byAmmon Shea

Paperback | June 2, 2015

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The author of Reading the OED presents an eye-opening look at language “mistakes” and how they came to be accepted as correct—or not.

English is a glorious mess of a language, cobbled together from a wide variety of sources and syntaxes, and changing over time with popular usage. Many of the words and usages we embrace as standard and correct today were at first considered slang, impolite, or just plain wrong.

Whether you consider yourself a stickler, a nitpicker, or a rule-breaker in the know, Bad English is sure to enlighten, enrage, and perhaps even inspire. Filled with historic and contemporary examples, the book chronicles the long and entertaining history of language mistakes, and features some of our most common words and phrases, including:

Ain’t Irregardless

Lively, surprising, funny, and delightfully readable, this is a book that will settle arguments among word lovers—and it’s sure to start a few, too.
Ammon Shea is the author of Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages along with Depraved English, Insulting English, and The Phone Book. A dictionary collector, he has worked as a consulting editor of American dictionaries at Oxford University Press. He has also contributed to the "On Language" column in Sunday's New York Times...
Title:Bad English: A History Of Linguistic AggravationFormat:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 8.25 × 5.43 × 0.69 inPublished:June 2, 2015Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0399165584

ISBN - 13:9780399165580

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Rated 3 out of 5 by from This would make a good reference book Mr. Shea takes an in-depth look at the evolution of our English language. Traveling along an easily understood timeline he looks at words and phrases that began as mistakes and misspeaks yet have now become commonplace and acceptable in both the written and spoken word. And yes, there is a difference in what is acceptable in written and in spoken English. Just to enlighten you a little, “stupider” is not a word and “OMG” is not a 21st century acronym. Language is alive and as such it evolves with the times. Mr. Shea does not only look at the words themselves but also at punctuation and grammar. Did you know there are seven – SEVEN – acceptable uses for an apostrophe? There are a multitude of words that began life as nouns and now are acceptable to use as verbs and adjectives. And yes, sometimes it is acceptable to split an infinitive. (Currently thumbing my nose at my grade 10 English teacher) Every good teacher follows a lesson with a quiz, right? Well, Mr. Shea does not deviate and offers a quiz made up of 14 quotations asking his readers to choose which are by Shakespeare and which come from the “disparate world of hi-hop/rap”. As you are muttering the phrase “piece of cake” under your breath, let me tell you, not quite as simple as it sounds. This book is well researched and Mr. Shea quotes his sources (endlessly). Irregardless (which I now KNOW is NOT a real word) and probably included as a preventative (which I now also KNOW is NOT a real word) measure to keep his readers from inadvertently making an error, the only fault I could find with this book comes at the end when Mr. Shea sites, defines and gives the appropriate reference for 221 accepted and commonly used words which were once frowned upon, some examples being: vest, upcoming, rotten, ice cream, balding, donate, fine and awful, etc (ekscetera which – I NOW KNOW – is acceptable for use in writing but never in speaking). Although this section was an interesting addition to the book it did seem to go on and on and on and on. So how did I, a reader of primarily fiction end up with this book on my reading list? As difficult as it may be to believe I recently found myself in a discussion about verbosity, vocabulary, vernacular, comma splices and run on sentences. A few days later I was checking my library site for their newest audio book additions and this one popped up. Coincidence? I think not! I had to give it a listen. It was entertaining and, as much as I hate to admit it, I did learn a thing or two. If you are a constant reader, a writer, a speaker, a teacher or just someone enthralled with this English language we profess to know and understand, this would be a handy reference book to keep on that little shelf close to your desk, maybe between your dictionary and your thesaurus.
Date published: 2015-02-26

Editorial Reviews

"Language is funny, and so is Ammon Shea. His excellent new book tours our irrational prejudices about language, showing that an appreciation for the quirks and ironies of language history can put our understanding on a firmer basis and restore our sense of humor."—David Skinner, author of The Story of Ain't"On the playground of language, there is no more mischievous laddie than Ammon Shea. I plan to use his new book to split the lip of the next insufferable language prig who saunters into my office to accuse me of bad English."  —Roy Peter Clark, author of The Glamour of Grammar and How to Write Short“In Bad English, Ammon Shea wastes no time challenging widely held beliefs about just what English is bad. His subtitle, “A History of Linguistic Aggravation,” gets in an opening jab at sticklers like me, who know that “irritate” means annoy while “aggravate” means “make worse.” Shea, having read the OED to write Reading the OED, is well qualified to tell us we probably don’t know as much as we think we do.”—Washington PostPraise for Reading the OED:"Oddly inspiring...Shea has walked the wildwood of our gnarled, ancient speech and returned singing incomprehensible sounds in a language that turns out to be our own."—Nicholson Baker, New York Times Book Review"Delicious...a lively lexicon."—O, The Oprah Magazine"Readworthy."—William Safire, The New York Times Magazine“Shea, an avid collector of words, displays an assortment for our pleasure as he wends his way through the alphabet.”—The Boston Globe