Jeanette "Astute Crabbist"'s Reviews > Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words

Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words by Bill Bryson
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Aug 05, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: nonfiction, reference, word-nerd-books, five-star-nonfiction
Read in August, 2010 , read count: 2

I read this book two times in about six months, so I think I'm done with the cover to cover work. I have it marked and highlighted and handy for reference.

Along with discussions of spelling and usage, Bryson includes many examples of incorrect usage from well-known publications and authors (including his very august self). The examples let you see what it looks like when it's done wrong, and you may recognize your own errors in those of other people. It's also nice to know that even the professionals make mistakes and get away with it.

Best of all, Bryson reminds us that English is a blissfully messy and uncooperative language. He encourages writers to ignore convention and flout the rules if they choose, provided they know what those rules are prior to breaking them. (If you're going to screw up, be sure it's intentional.)

Not even the experts can agree all of the time on what is right, so Bill Bryson humbly offers us this book as "a compilation of suggestions, observations, and even treasured prejudices." It's worth having on hand if you're a word geek with a lousy memory like me. I refer to it frequently.
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Reading Progress

10/14/2010 page 15
7.0% "From page 13: 'The belief that and should not be used to begin a sentence is without foundation. And that's all there is to it.'"
10/24/2010 page 69
31.0% ""Enormity does not, as is frequently thought, indicate size, but rather refers to something that is wicked, monstrous, and outrageous." Use immensity or vastness instead."
11/04/2010 page 101
45.0% "head over heels is not just a cliche, it is also, when you think about it, a faintly absurd one. Our heads are usually over our heels." 5 comments
11/20/2010 page 141
63.0% "People who are nauseated are no more nauseous than people who are poisoned are poisonous." 3 comments
12/13/2010 page 213
95.0% "I've almost finished my second reading of this. Twice in six months. I must be a true word geek!"

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Caroline (new) - added it

Caroline I can't believe that I have never bumped into this book before! It sounds a great read, and superbly useful too. Love all your reading progress notes as well as the review. Thank you, thank you for the intro!


Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" You are welcome. I still go back to this one regularly. One nice thing about it is that Bryson is American but lives in England, so he includes discussions of discrepancies in usage between the two countries.


message 3: by Angie (new) - added it

Angie I love listening to the audio book, A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson. Have you read that one?


Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" I listened to the audio of that one too, Angie. Very interesting, but overwhelming amount of information.


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