Richard Lederer, Anguished English (NY: Dell Publishing, 1987), 177 pages.
Those of you who are logolepts will be familiar with verbivore Richard Lederer. He has been contributing to the addiction of wordaholics for decades. His name is familiar to many after having written more that 30 books about language, served as host of the radio program A Way With Words for nearly a decade, written a syndicated column Looking At Language that appears in numerous magazines and newspapers, — and all while teaching English and Media at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire. In recent years, he has become known to millions more as the father of Howard and Annie.
I love Lederer’s books, and recently went to his book Anguished English to pull out “The World According to Student Bloopers” which I plan to use as an introduction to one of my lectures for a class I am teaching this Spring. I should have known that once I had the book in hand I would not be able to resist reading the whole thing once again (for about the bjillionth time).
Anguished English is appropriately subtitled, “An Anthology of Accidental Assaults Upon Our Language.” When Jacques Barzun has nightmares they must certainly be about the contents of this book. However, for those of us who aren’t quite as possessed obsessed passionate, this book is rolling-on-the-floor funny.
In addition to student bloopers, Lederer shares malapropisms, mixed metaphors, unusual translations, quips, mispellings, signs, and headlines that will have you pleading for mercy. But no mercy will be forthcoming, for like me, you will not be able to put this book down until you have finished it. And, even then you will not be able to escape it because you will find yourself reading portions to your family, congregation, students, and strangers that you meet on the street.
I recommend this book to EVERYBODY. Tolle Lege!
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Below are some excerpts from the Student Bloopers portion of the book to whet your appetite.
— Sir Francis Drake circumcised the world with a 100-foot clipper.
— Having one wife is called monotony. When a man has more than one wife, he is a pigamist.
— Many an inmate in the house of correction (of composition) knows the one variously attributed to William Lyon Pehlps of Yale University, Tubby Rogers of M.I.T., and others, who allegedly found this sentence gleaming out of a student essay: “The girl tumbled down the stairs and lay prostitute at the bottom.” In the margin of the paper the professor commented: “My dear sir, you must learn to distinguish between a fallen woman and one who has merely slipped.”
— Heredity means that if your grandfather didn’t have any children, then your father probably wouldn’t have any, and neither would you, probably.
— Abstinence is a good thing if practiced in moderation.
— Milton wrote Paradise Lost. Then his wife died and he wrote Paradise Regained.
— The sun never set on the British Empire because the British Empire is in the East and the sun sets in the West.
— To collect sulphur, hold a deacon over a flame in a test tube.
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Want more? You can read Lederer’s collection of non sequiturs culled from actual insurance forms at Wes Kenney’s blog.
Or, check out these spelling mistakes.
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Now, go buy the book. It is about the price of lunch but will give you a whole lot more enjoyment.
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