The Eclectic Encyclopedia of English

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Another notice of a recent book, this time Nathan Bierma's Eclectic Encyclopedia of English (William, James & Co.), an assortment of material from five years of his "On Language" column in the Chicago Tribune (no longer a regular feature in the paper, alas). It's meant for a general audience; in fact, a number of the entries originated as responses to queries from readers.

Here's his point of view:

I used to be picky–really picky–about English grammar and usage. [illustrations of his earlier pickiness follow] (p. iv)

My new approach to language can be called joyous bewilderment. Rather than fretting about oddities, trends, and variations, I delight in them. The variation and change is exactly what makes language so interesting. I'm a work in progress, but gradually I'm learning to see quirks and changes in English and rather than respond with "How dangerous," to reply instead, "How cool!" or at least, "How interesting!" (p. viii)

I'm not exactly a disinterested party here: I supplied one of the blurbs for the book (Erin McKean and Geoff Nunberg wrote the others), I am thanked in the Introduction, and I'm quoted or cited five times in the book.

My blurb:

Bierma has been exceptionally careful in his research for stories involving language–starting by seeking out scholars who might have the information he's looking for and then actually listening. So his columns are both informed and informative. Oh yes, and entertaining.

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