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Hardcover The New Fowler's Modern English Usage Book

ISBN: 0198691262

ISBN13: 9780198691266

The New Fowler's Modern English Usage

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Book Overview

First published in 1926, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage is one of the most celebrated reference books of the twentieth century. Commonly known as "Fowler," after its inimitable author, H.W. Fowler, it has sold more than a million copies and maintained a devoted following over seven decades, in large part because of its charming blend of information and good humor, delivered in the voice of a genial if somewhat idiosyncratic schoolmaster. "Reading...

Customer Reviews

3 ratings

The standard to which all the others are compared

It is somewhat amazing that this book, first published in 1926, is still in print. The language has changed quite a bit since then; thousands of words have been added, hundreds have gone obsolete, and hundreds more have had their meanings shaded; and of course many of Fowler's pronouncements are now merely echoes of battles long lost or won. Not only that, but two newer editions of A Dictionary of Modern English Usage have been published, the excellent second edition edited by Sir Ernest Gowers in 1965 (now ironically out of print while the original finds yet another printing), and the not so entirely well-received (but underrated in my opinion) third edition, edited and revised by R.W. Burchfield in 1996.How to account for this phenomenon? Part of it is because Fowler's reputation only grew after his death as several generations of writers sang his praises and adhered to, or sometimes fussed about, his many dicta on usage questions both great and small. And as the years went by, and as the pages of his masterpiece gave way to wine stains and silverfish or the few remaining copies disappeared from libraries, he himself became a legend. Not everything he wrote is considered correct today, nor was it then. And sometimes the succinct yet magisterial little essays he wrote were followed by other little essays that were all but impenetrable, obtuse and somewhat overbearing. No matter. The good greatly outweighed the occasional misjudgment, and the education he afforded us remains.Another part of the story is that there is something very properly English and wonderfully nostalgic about the man himself. He was a bit of a character who lied about his age and joined the army when he was 56-years-old to fight the Germans in the Great War (only to faint on the parade grounds), a man who earlier gave up a teaching career because he did not feel it was his responsibility to prepare a student for the seminary. More than anything, though, the fact that this book is still in demand is a testament to the high regard and affection felt by the literate public toward Fowler himself. What Fowler knew and preached was that before we could presume to be literary artists or journalists or even authors of readable letters we must of necessity, if we are to be effective, be craftsmen. Central to his purpose was the belief that the right word in its proper place and context constituted the backbone and much of the muscle and sinew of forthright and effective writing. That belief along with Fowler's celebrated passion for the concise and the correct, and his intolerance of ignorance and humbug, coupled with his sometimes incomparable expression, long ago won him the undying respect and admiration of careful writers of the English language the world over.But this is something of a problem. Since Fowler last set pen to page some seventy-one years ago (he died in 1933), the English language has changed and grown enormously. What was correct and effective then, as

An Authoratative Guide

The idiomatic use of the English language needs a referee, and some referees are simply better than others. The "anything goes" motto of our times gives us uneven, illiterate, and occasionally brutal prose. This book helps block this inevitable slide into the lack of clarity and coherence. This second edition (cf., Third Edition) of "Modern English Usage" may strike some readers as arcane and archaic, because it is so restrictive in its prescriptions. Given the laxity of many our writers, the use of a strict disciplinarian in philology is a welcome resource.

The Best English Usage Book Available

Excuse the superfluous capitals. Fowler/Gowers 2nd Ed. is quite brilliant; learned and full of humour. It successfully walks the line between descriptive and prescriptive grammar (with perhaps a tendency to over-emphasise prescriptive). The 1st Ed. was too stuffy; the new 3rd Ed. does not come close; indeed it is far too tolerant of the monstrosities so frequently heard today. My favourite bedside book by a long way.
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