"The Grouchy Grammarian: A How-Not-To Guide to. . ."

Sep 3, 2005
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Easy to jump into at any point, a 'fun' read.

Cons:Must appreciate the humor (or sadness) found in the misuse of the English Language.

The Bottom Line: Our words communicate ideas, dictate how persuasive they are found. Our words must be used/treated as the precious things they truly are. This book will aid in meeting that goal.

'Daylight-savings time' did it.

It was the final straw that broke the camel's back.

For years The Grouchy Grammarian (the GG) had suffered in silence. As a longtime voracious and attentive reader, the GG had collected and filed away a large number of clippings, notes, and other examples of the abuse and mis-use of modern English that would serve as the basis for this book.

Abuses as common (yet unnoticed) as referring to 'savings time' rather than 'saving time'. The GG refused to yield on this point.

Thomas Parrish brings his reader a grouchy personality, a personality that wants to show others a higher path. One who wants to "show (the) readers how the language is used by thoughtful people, and why this is the best way." Whether 'the Grouch' truly exists (you _do_ believe in Santa Claus, do you not?) or is simply an imagined brainchild of the author, The Grouchy Grammarian delivers that promised map that leads to a higher literate ground.

The Grouchy Grammarian does so with a light touch though. This is not a dry and dusty tome, lecturing on the finer points of subject-verb agreement (though he does hit that topic) or the misplaced apostrophe (though he does touch on that topic also!)

Focusing on examples culled from the ranks of the 'big dogs' (New York Times, CNN, AP, NPR, Knight Ridder and on and on) the GG is all over the linguistic map with examples of the abuse and misuse of spoken and written English. As Parrish himself describes the book (indeed, as the complete title notes) it is perhaps a "how-not-to manual".

Not intending to be a 'grammar guide' or a comprehensive usage guide to the English language; The Grouchy Grammarian is instead like eavesdropping on two friends gossiping about their mutual language dislikes.

Perhaps the most important entry among the 47 is the first: "Think!" Upon this admonition everything that follows rests. This is the longest section in the book and really delivers the author's admonition to "think about what you're saying—know what it means and where it came from."

From a discussion of the misuse of about/of (you have not read a biography about Churchill, you have read a biography of Churchill) to the seemingly always dicey you're/your choice, a comprehensive Index allows you to quickly find the Grouch's thoughts on anything discussed in the book.

An extensive bibliography runs to fifty-plus entries that note the books found on the Grouch's bookshelves.

The Bottom Line
Any writer who practices their craft seriously, whether as a paid writer, a user here on Epinions, or simply penning love notes (or e-mails!) to that special one, will find value in this book. Our words communicate our ideas and dictate how persuasive they are found. For that reason alone our words should be valued and treated and used as the precious objects they truly are.

No discussion of words, or grammar, or 'misuse of the King's English' on this website would be complete without a tip of the cap to our own resident Grammar Curmudgeon. The link will take you to the first of his irregular 'rants' about his observations here on Epinions that parallel somewhat the topics covered in this book. If you enjoy any or all of the Grammar Curmudgeon's essays you will most likely find similar value in The Grouchy Grammarian

Sidebar II
Any possible errors in grammar usage, spelling, declension, etc. are obviously left as a test of my reader's skill in detecting such errors. You are to be commended for finding each and every 'test' I have left for my readers' entertainment.

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Certified 'Lean-n-mean' review

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"Just the facts, ma'am"

Title: The Grouchy Grammarian: A How-Not-To
         Guide to the 47 Most Common Mistakes in English . . .

Author: Thomas Parrish
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
Copyright: 2002
Pages: 192
ISBN #: 0471223832

Ages recommended: Teen and older reader/writer

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