Navigating the ins and outs of the English language can be a grueling task, considering it is used widely in the world as the language of commerce and formal communication. We present a selection of books that can help you figure the right phrases to use in the right situations, to avoid common pitfalls that hamper your ability to communicate. Whether you are a serious student of the English language, or just looking for an interesting read, there is a book for everyone.
Literally, the Best Language Book Ever: Annoying Words and Abused Phrases You Should Never Use Again
Author: Paul Yeager
Publisher: New York: Penguin Group, 2008
Call No.: 428.2 FOG
Summary: We hear it all the time, and while we may not readily admit it, we have been guilty of it at some point or other in our lives. Yes, I am talking about language abuse! Many words and phrases are butchered in daily usage, be it in private or public circles. Some types of language abuse are downright annoying, while others can tarnish your reputation.
This book deals with different types of language abuse that most of us have encountered before: grammatical errors, illogical statements, useless clichés and redundant words, among others.
Here are some commonly abused words in the office:
- Absolutely essential – By definition, essential means absolutely necessary, so by saying absolutely essential you are really saying, absolutely absolutely necessary, which is unnecessary!
- At your earliest convenience - This phrase is much too formal to the point where it sounds insincere. Unless your goal is to appear distant, it is better to just stick to as soon or possible or when you can get to it.
- On a daily basis – What is the difference between on a daily basis and daily? Nothing! Using more words does not automatically make you sound more important, just long-winded!
It's a Wonderful Word: the Real Origins of Our Favourite Words, from Anorak to Zombie
Author: Albert Jack
Publisher: London: Random House, 2011
Call No.: 422 JAC
Summary: Curious to learn about how common modern words such as tomboy, bimbo, divorce, bikini, jeans, amongst many others, came about? In this book the author, Albert Jack, presents the origins of 500 colourful words. This book is a treasure trove of some of today’s common terms and how they came to be – written in an entertaining and humorous manner.
the English language need not be boring at all, as this book proves. Investigations into the origins of the words in this book show how the language has drawn inspiration from some very interesting and unlikely places. Readers will also find themselves drawn into the rich history of English-speaking cultures through the various unique stories behind the words.
The book is divided into different themes, with terms originating from the eighteenth to the twentieth century arranged according to context, allowing readers to focus on the words that may suit their needs. This book of wonderful words is also an eye-opening read and will fascinate you without a doubt. Enjoy!
The Banned List: A Manifesto Against Jargon and Cliché
Author: John Rentoul
Publisher: London: Elliott & Thompson, 2011
Call No.: 427 REN
Summary: The Banned List consists of a list of clichés and jargon compiled by creator John Rentoul with an elaborate (and humorous) introduction detailing how common these words/phrases are overused. Some examples are: ‘epic fail’, ‘level up’, ‘killer app’ and ‘stakeholder’. The author’s dislike for stock phrases led him to create a banned list in 2008 – these words are listed alphabetically in the book.
Rentoul gives three reasons with detailed explanations for the high usage of these banned words. These are:
(1) one is actually not sure what one wants to say,
(2) wanting to be part of the in-crowd; and
(3) a lack of time.
Instead of resorting to clichés, the author strongly encourages readers to take the effort to explain and argue their point and to summarise rather than resort to jargon.
This is one book which really makes you think about your own writing and speaking. Do you resort to clichés too?
The English Language: A User's Guide
Author: Jack Lynch
Publisher: Newburyport, MA: Focus Pub./R Pullins Co., c2008
Call No.: 428 LYN
Summary: In this essential guide to modern English usage in the 21st century, increase your knowledge of the English language through clear and concise explanations of the rules and numerous examples. Written in an informal manner by Jack Lynch - Associate Professor at Rutgers University, Newark, New Jersey, this guide covers grammatical rules, styles, and suggestions on how words and phrases should be used.
The entries are arranged alphabetically for an easy search, and are accompanied with examples of wrong/right, weak/strong, good/better, disputed/preferred and informal/formal usage. For instance, the wrong/right section helps identify and compare correct and incorrect language usage, the weak/strong section provides tips on how one can write in a clearer and more effective manner, and the informal/formal section highlights language usage that are acceptable in speech or in informal writing.
Intended for quick reference, this lively guide is highly recommended for students, writers, or those who simply need a refresher course on the English language. It will help you write and speak grammatically-correct English with more confidence, and use the language successfully in any professional or social context.
The Queen's English : An A to Zed Guide to Distinctively British Words
Author: C.J. Moore
Publisher: New York: The Reader's Digest Association, c2011
Call No.: 427 MOO
Summary: If you are thinking of visiting the land of the English, you might want to get your hands on this book first. Otherwise, the lack of knowledge might leave you baffled when you receive a bag of french fries after ordering chips! Wondering what you should say to get a bag of chips? Well, over there, they call it ‘crisp’.
The Queen's English is a quick and easy guide to common words and phrases used by the English. The list of words and phrases has been arranged alphabetically for easy search, and the explanation for each entry is clearly and humorously described.
Grammar for Grown-Ups: A Straightforward Guide to Good English
Author: Katherine Fry and Rowena Kirton
Publisher: London: Square Peg, 2012
Call No.: 428.2 FRY
Summary: This book tells you all you need to know about good English. It covers grammar, punctuation, spelling, common errors and not so common errors.
Here are some common errors that can change the meaning of a sentence in its entirety:
- Double negatives: 'I didn't do nothing' actually means ' did everything' – but that's not what's usually meant. It should be either 'I didn't do anything' or 'I did nothing'.
- Spring-clean: The past tense is 'spring-cleaned', not 'sprung-clean' – the term is derived from the season, not something a bouncy bunny rabbit does.
Apart from that, some preferred spellings include:
- 'adviser' rather than 'advisor'
- 'lovable' rather than 'loveable'
- 'Nonetheless' rather than 'none the less'
- 'Among' rather than 'amongst'
A Certain "Je Ne Sais Quoi": The Origin of Foreign Words Used in English
Author: Chloe Rhodes
Publisher: Pleasantville, N.Y.: Reader's Digest Association, c2010
Call No.: English 422.4 RHO
Summary: Words, phrases, certain sayings we use all the time: have you ever wondered where they come from? The book, "Je Ne Sais Quoi" lists and organises alphabetically the many foreign words and phrases that are now commonly used in English. It gives not only the origin of the words we use but also how these words began to creep into the English language.
Some of the words still hold their original meaning through the transition to English, even through the centuries. While most words found in this book are of Latin or French origin, a sizable number also come from outside Europe. For example, words such as 'bungalow', 'dungarees' and 'khaki' have their origins in Hindi.
This is an engaging book that filled with information for people interested in words and for those who want to use them correctly.
Collins Easy Learning English Conversation
Author: Elizabeth Walter and Kate Woodford
Publisher: London: HarperCollins, 2012
Call No.: 428.34 WAL
Summary: Have you ever thought about the difference between using 'Can I…' and 'Could I…'? The latter is a more polite way of asking for something, and this is one of the great things about this book. Readers will get to understand which words to use in settings where you prefer to be more polite, or less formal. Everyday scenarios are covered, such as Chatting to people, Travelling, Eating with friends, Shopping, and Work.
To illustrate, here are some extracts and learning points:
- When people say 'I disagree', they often start the sentence with 'I'm afraid'. This sounds more polite and less forceful.
- Sometimes people use an 'x' at the end of an email or a letter. You should only use 'x' with people you know very well, as it represents a kiss.
In Book 2, which is organized using the same chapter headings as Book 1, you get to revise some of the phrases discussed in Book 1, and learn new sentences which allow you to express what you mean in finer detail, for example:
- If you like something, but not in a strong way, use 'I quite like…', e.g. 'I quite like exploring new places'.
- If you like something very much, you can use 'really', e.g. 'I really like Italian food'.
The other great thing about these books is that it gives you whole sentences, which helps you in learning grammatical English that will sound natural in speech. It also comes with a CD for you to "Listen out for" the useful phrases that you are likely to encounter in daily life.
The Chicktionary: From A-Line to Z-Snap, the Words Every Woman Should Know
Author: Anna Lefler
Publisher: : Avon, Mass.: Adams Media, 2011
Call No.: 422.03 LEF
Summary: Did you know that 'Aunt Flo' is a funny nickname for your period? How about 'biffle' which is a shortened term for best friend for life? Or did you know that a 'frenemy' is someone in your group of friends that you actually love to hate? These words are followed by many more in Anna Lefler's Chicktionary. Many of the definitions here are guaranteed to bring you to tears; in laughter.
An award-winning writer, Anna Lefler clearly knows how women think and talk. There are more than 450 words to be discovered. Many of these words have meanings that only another woman can understand – these words work like a secret code with an underlying meaning. It will transform boring conversations into delightful ones. You would definitely not be able to resist the use of the terms in this book.
The words are organized in an alphabetical manner which makes it easy to refer to. It also includes fun facts that will tickle you. You will have a good time from the start to end.
One thing for sure, the moment you get your hands on the book your female conversation will not be the same again. Enjoy!
Grammar Girl's 101 Troublesome Words You'll Master in No Time
Author: Mignon Fogarty
Publisher: New York: St. Martin's Press, 2012
Call No.: English 428.2 FOG
Summary: It is always a good habit to write what you mean and not use ambiguous or even erroneous words. Mignon Fogarty helps you steer clear of such mistakes with her compilation of 101 words which are often misspelled or misused. In the book, each word is used in a quote from a contemporary source such as a movie, TV show or an article to demonstrate usage.
Here are some extracts and learning points:
- Shined and shone are two competing acceptable past tense forms of the verb shine. Some sources recommend using shined when the verb has an object (when you are shining something) and shone when it does not (when something is shining on its own – like the sun). Meaning matters though too, as ‘shined’ is the only acceptable past tense when you mean 'polished', as in 'He shined his shoes.'
- The word 'noisome' may sound like noisy, but that's not what it means. A noisome problem offends your nose, not your ears. Noisome means 'offensive or disgusting' and it is used almost exclusively to describe smells.
- The word 'free' as in 'free gift' is usually redundant. Gifts should be free by definition. The word 'gift' alone should suffice. On the other hand, even though it's redundant, the phrase 'free gift' is so common in advertisements that it's hard to call it an error. Avoid the phrase free gift unless you’re writing for advertising purposes.
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