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Fortysomething, photographer slacker, working in IT, living in Greenwich; failed polymath; drinks and eats too much, reads too little...

The King's English

The King's English - H.W. Fowler,  F.G. Fowler Another perfect book for the English language aficionado (or pedant). Fowler and Fowler present their definitive guide for the aspiring early-20th-century writer wanting to ensure the correctitude (or not) of their prose. [b:The King's English|13559713|The King's English|H.W. Fowler|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348228237s/13559713.jpg|595777] is not a guide for learning how to write though, Fowler and Fowler don't spend much time explaining the correct usage at all, instead it's a list of examples of, and corrections for, mistakes – common and uncommon – in grammar, syntax, vocabulary, etc. While [a:Dickens|239579|Charles Dickens|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1357465042p2/239579.jpg] and [a:Charlotte Brontë|1036615|Charlotte Brontë|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1335001351p2/1036615.jpg] come in for regular criticism, it seems that newspapers are generally held up as the worst examples of almost all faults.

The book is split into two parts. Part one contains chapters on misuse of vocabulary, syntax, airs and graces (showing off), and punctuation. Each is treated thoroughly, and surprisingly wittily for a grammar book. Much of the advice is slightly dated now – the Kings referenced by the title are Edward the VII (for the first edition) and George V (for the third edition) – unsurprisingly, English as a language has moved on somewhat in those intervening years. The Fowlers are even keen to point this out themselves – unlike German and French, English is a loosely proscribed language, a hybrid language where only common usage is a requirement for it to change: "the only question about any particular word ... is whether the vox populi has yet declared for it; when it has, there is no more to be said; but when it has not, the process should be resisted as long as possible".

Most of the chapters I liked or loved. Only the chapter on syntax I found so impenetrable as to be unreadable. My Comprehensive education was anything but, and my lack of Grammar education leaves me with very little reference point for the grammar terms bandied about throughout that chapter. There was only so many times I could remind myself of what a subjunctive or a participle is before I just gave up and started skimming the chapter, hoping that the next one would be better. Equally, part two just feels rushed. In the introduction the Fowlers state that part two is mostly just lists of examples with little exposition, they claim due to lack of space. However, it seems to me that slightly fewer examples could have left room for more exposition, and failing that a second volume would have allowed them to really go to town. Perhaps they'd just become bored by this point, certainly part two mostly bored me.