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Saturday, April 30, 2016

April Book Reviews: Dewey 400--Languages

Books on language, grammar, and usage. (English)

A Man of My Words : Reflections on the English Language,  by Lederer, Richard, 1938- ; New York : St. Martin's Press, 2003. 

My favorite of this month's non-fiction, A Man of My Words was both entertaining and highly educational. Lederer explores the vagaries of English language, grammar and usage with a delightful mix of example (as in the case of puns), explanation, definition, and even controversy.  I recommend this book for anyone interested in the joy of words as well as for the dedicated "verbivore."

The Story of Ain't: America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Publishedby Skinner, David, 1973-New York, NY : Harper, [2012], ©2012

This book had an interesting take on the history of dictionary publishing. I felt a bit like you do when you take a class and somehow skipped the prerequisite introductory class. It was explaining names and events that seemed to presume a familiarity, but with which I have no familiarity.

I might have stuck with it if I had not gotten thoroughly immersed in "A Man of My Words" and switched almost entirely to reading it instead, along with some non-fiction. 

bull.shit [boo'l-shit] a lexicon by Mark Peters, New York : Three Rivers Press, [2015]

This book was full of short entries explaining the background of many words and phrases that mean nonsense, horse manure, and, well (please excuse my language) bullshit.  It was entertaining for a little while, but I did not feel that I was learning much. The book had the adolescent tone of a boy who is throwing out swear words just because he can, hoping for some shock value or at least entertainment, all the while justifying his use of them by their legitimate meanings.  

French learning programs

Starting out in French, New York : Living Language, [2008] 

This was the easiest to use in the car. With no booklets required, I could just drive around and repeat the phrases and practice my accent. The french part is pronounced by a native speaker.  I like the way it simply explained the meaning of words in a conversation, as they are used. Maybe later it gets into the spelling or historical background--I never got past the first CD because I don't drive that much.

French complete course the basics.
New York: Living Language/Random House, p2005.

Because it required the booklets, it was not as efficient for learning while driving. The first CD's seemed to be mainly lists of words to say after the speaker, with no meaning given. Since I am not entirely a beginner, I was able to understand and repeat most of them, but it seemed like a pointless exercise. I never got past the first few lessons.

French/English Dictionaries

Concise Oxford-Hachette French Dictionary : French-English, English-French Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press ; [Paris] : Hachette Livre, 2009.

This, among the three French dictionaries I found, was the most useful. It had more words and a very nice layout.

750 French Verbs and Their Uses, by Mathy, Jean-Philippe. 
New York : Wiley, c1992.]

This was somewhat useful. Like any French/English dictionary, it is much more helpful if you know the root verb you are seeking.
Harrap's everyday French and English dictionary.  New York : McGraw-Hill, c2009.

This was okay, and easy to use. I just found that for myself, I liked the other one better.

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