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The Language Wars

A History of Proper English

Henry Hitchings

Picador

The English language is a battlefield. Since the age of Shakespeare, arguments over correct usage have been bitter, and have always really been about contesting values—morality, politics, and class. The Language Wars examines the present state of the conflict, its history, and its future. Above all, it uses the past as a way of illuminating the present. Moving chronologically, the book explores the most persis­tent issues to do with English and unpacks the history of “proper” us­age. Where did these ideas spring from? Who has been on the front lines in the language wars?

The Language Wars examines grammar rules, regional accents, swearing, spelling, dictionaries, political correctness, and the role of electronic media in reshaping language. It also takes a look at such de­tails as the split infinitive, elocution, and text messaging. Peopled with intriguing characters such as Jonathan Swift, Lewis Carroll, and Lenny Bruce, The Language Wars is an essential volume for anyone interested in the state of the English language today or its future.

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The Language Wars
1 'To boldly go' Truths and myths about English It seems as if no day passes without an argument over the English language and its 'proper' use. We debate the true meanings of words, the nuances of grammar, the acceptability of slang, attitudes to regional accents, resistance to newfangled terms, confusion about apostrophes, the demise of the semicolon. Why do questions of grammar, spelling and punctuation trouble us? Why are we intrigued or unsettled by other people's pronunciation and vocabulary? Why does the magazine The Awl report 'the awful rise of "snuck"',
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REVIEWS

Praise for The Language Wars

"Hitchings has prepared a turducken of language-history entrées. Consuming one layer, we discover another, and another. And we feast."---The Cleveland Plain Dealer
 
"Thoroughly charming…A rich history of English and the shifting rule books for its correctness…Hitchings cautions readers to take care, not in the way of the ‘grumblers, fault-finders, quibblers and mud-slingers,’ but following the example of Orwell, in using language to be clear, to be honest, to connect with each other."---The Boston Globe
 
"Hitchings has earned a place at the head table of contemporary linguists."---The Denver Post

"Mr. Hitchings’s trenchant prose is irresistible."---The Baltimore Sun

"Extraordinary…Chock-full of historical and literary references, The Language Wars is a fascinating, eye-opening look at the evolution of the English language."---The Huffington Post

"Crisply written, amusing, informative, and thought-provoking. Anyone interested in the English language and its history should read it."---The Sunday Telegraph (London)

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Henry Hitchings

  • Henry Hitchings was born in 1974. He is the author of The Secret Life of Words, Who’s Afraid of Jane Austen?, and Defining the World. He has con­tributed to many newspapers and magazines and is the theater critic for the London Evening Standard.

  • Henry Hitchings © Jerry Bauer / Agence Opale
    Henry Hitchings
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Available Formats and Book Details

The Language Wars

A History of Proper English

Henry Hitchings

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Picador

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