Archive for July 2014

Bad books: Are there such things?

Bad books: Are there such things?
Are there bad books? Or are they just “not now” or “I don’t like that one” books? For me, there are differences between badly written books (bad influences — ptui!) and bad-for-me books (styles I don’t enjoy, genres I don’t understand, or too heavy — literally or figuratively — for a given situation). Sometimes a... Read more »

'Dangerous Work' -- Conan Doyle's Arctic Diary

To fend off the approaching heat wave, I’m turning for relief to one of my favorite discoveries of 2013, “Dangerous Work: Diary of an Arctic Adventure” by Arthur Conan Doyle (University of Chicago Press, 2012). Yes, I mean that — a Conan Doyle book first published in 2012. It is comprised of a facsimile of... Read more »

A little WHAT is a dangerous thing?

When I talked to my father about all the things I’ve done to set up this blog, I faltered in one of my descriptions because I wasn’t sure of a technical term. “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” I told him. “Isn’t it ‘a little learning,’ not ‘a little knowledge?'” he asked. Well, of... Read more »
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Words worth defending... and... loving it!

As those of you “of a certain age” may recognize from the headline, I’ve been watching reruns of “Get Smart” on TV again. It’s probably best for my schedule that I can find them at a decent hour only one night a week. Discussing the adventures of the amazingly inept Maxwell Smart, Agent 86, recently... Read more »

Browsing through Bartlett's for beloved neighbors

As I look through Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations and enjoy what Bartlett himself called “the obligations our language owns to various authors for numerous phrases,” I love finding remarkable things on the same page or adjacent pages. But for me, it’s hard to beat a single column deep in the book, which holds quotations from my... Read more »

What French teaches me about English -- unique things

At the Bastille Day party in Daley Center plaza on July 14, I enjoyed a croissant, two macaron (only one “o”) cookies, a photo contest, a little racing — and lots of language, of course. I had a unique experience when I was forced to switch to English because my French wasn’t understood. I’d never... Read more »
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More words worth defending -- that's incredible!

Sometimes words need defending not because they’re obscure, like pervious in a previous post, but because they’re misused. Here’s a pair of “words worth defending” that are tied together in my mind by being part of the same story: “incredible” and “masterful.” Early in this century, I worked as a copyeditor for Goss Communications in... Read more »

Browsing through Bartlett's

(NOTE: This is an updated version, replacing a couple of words I discovered missing from the end of the original post.) On the lower shelf of the bookcase where I keep my dictionary is a book I consult nearly as often — “Familiar Quotations,” according to the red box on its turquoise cover, but I... Read more »

Re-read a Sustaining Book -- save money, save your mind

During the winter of 2014, I was struck down not just by the polar vortex, but by the flu. Stuck at home, I did what comes naturally in such situations — I went to my reading room and picked out a book. I chose the work of that great British philosopher, A.A. Milne — yes,... Read more »
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Words worth defending -- and a new place to do it

There are words that few of us use, and there are others that many misuse. When I worked as an editor at wire services and newspapers, I strove to see them used correctly. Now, as a reader and a more independent writer, I think of myself as defending words. Words worth defending don’t get out... Read more »