A language-lover's dream, The Oxford Companion to the English Language is a thousand-page cornucopia covering virtually every aspect of the English language as well as language in general. The range of topics is remarkable, offering a goldmine of information on writing and speech (including entries on grammar, literary terms, linguistics, rhetoric, and style) as well as on such wider issues as sexist language, bilingual education, child language acquisition, and the history of English. There are biographies of Shakespeare, Noah Webster, Noam Chomsky, James Joyce, and many others who have influenced the shape or study of the language; extended articles on everything from psycholinguistics to sign language to tragedy; coverage of every nation in which a significant part of the population speaks English as well as virtually every regional dialect and pidgin (from Gullah and Scouse to Cockney and Tok Pisin). In addition, the Companion provides bibliographies for the larger entries, generous cross-referencing, etymologies for headwords, a chronology of English from Roman times to 1990, and an index of people who appear in entries or bibliographies. And like all Oxford Companions, this volume is packed with delightful surprises. We learn, for instance, that the first Professor of Rhetoric at Harvard later became President (John Quincy Adams); that "slogan" originally meant "war cry"; that the keyboard arrangement QWERTY became popular not because it was efficient but the opposite (it slows down the fingers and keeps them from jamming the keys); that "mbenzi" is Swahili for "rich person" (i.e., one who owns a Mercedes Benz); and that in Scotland, "to dree yir ain weird" means "to follow your own star."
From Scrabble to Websters to TESOL to Gibraltar, the thirty-five hundred entries here offer more information on a wider variety of topics than any other reference on the English language. Featuring the work of nearly a hundred scholars from around the world, this unique volume is the ideal shelf-mate to The Oxford Companion to English Literature. It will captivate everyone who loves language....Continua
One can rarely match Oxford for this sort of book. This is a handy volume (hence the "Concise" of the title) that can be easily hefted in one hand. But do not be fooled: this book contains more than you will ever know about English usage.
Dipping into this book is an educative pleasure - you will not regard English in the same light again. The entry on the usage of apostrophes is a classic. Its underlying lesson is that if you scratch the surface of grammar and usage you will soon realize that things are not even remotely as simple as they might have seemed to you in the past.
For anyone who has always had a niggling interest in language and grammar but never got round to studying them formally, this book is a captivating introduction, with only one caveat: a relatively good existing grasp of English grammar and usage is required in order to extract the most from this work. It would not work for someone trying to learn English, for example. Otherwise, this is principally the sort of book one dips into now and again out of mere interest but it serves very well as an authoritative text on English usage.
The paperback binding could be better, though, with softer paper and a stronger spine, but it is not so bad as to deserve an adverse recommendation. The book seems to be able to have taken a bit of a beating over the years I have owned and used it....Continua