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Rosie Right

Our language and how it works.

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Words Are for Reading?

Those of us who watch words and language are not an insignificant group. One way we can tell this is by the number of books published just for us. Here are a few recent ones. (This is not a scientifically constructed list; it merely includes books that have come to me for review or that I have not been able to resist the temptation to buy.)

For your guest room's bedside table: "Another Word a Day," by Anu Garg. The second of Garg's word books, this one has lists of words divided into subjects such as "Words Related to Movies" and "Words Related to 'False Friends.'"

To browse in if you are interested in the history of our language and in what David Crystal calls "our languages": The 584-page book "The Stories of English" is scholarly, but it is written in an easy manner and is scattered with clearly marked language stories that make fascinating reading. Example: the story of Eleanor of Aquitane and her influence on our language.

You will need to decide whether the wonderful Strunk and White's "Elements of Style" has been damaged or brightened up by the new illustrated edition. The type is certainly easier to read than earlier editions, but it is hard to see the need for the illustrations. And purists will not like the few changes, such as the permission to use the feminine personal pronoun instead of the generic he.

Oxford Press has a new book on the origin of language, "The Talking Ape." This one is not for the bedside table. I asked John Williamson, a serious linguist, to comment on it. His verdict is:

"As a book for the general reader interested in how language evolved, I could recommend it with some strong reservations. The author casually assumes certain phenomena which are far from proven, such as Chomsky's universal grammar. However, it should be interesting to someone who wants to get up to date on the topic and know what some of the approaches are."



Let Rosie hear from you by mail (Style Weekly, 1707 Summit Ave., Richmond, 23230); by e-mail rozanne.epps@styleweekly.com; or by telephone (804-358-0825).



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