The Language Wars by Henry Hitchings
A History of Proper English

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Synopsis

The English language is a battlefield. Since the age of Shakespeare, arguments over correct usage have been bitter, and have always really been about contesting values—morality, politics, and class. The Language Wars examines the present state of the conflict, its history, and its future. Above all, it uses the past as a way of illuminating the present. Moving chronologically, the book explores the most persis­tent issues to do with English and unpacks the history of “proper” us­age. Where did these ideas spring from? Who has been on the front lines in the language wars?

The Language Wars examines grammar rules, regional accents, swearing, spelling, dictionaries, political correctness, and the role of electronic media in reshaping language. It also takes a look at such de­tails as the split infinitive, elocution, and text messaging. Peopled with intriguing characters such as Jonathan Swift, Lewis Carroll, and Lenny Bruce, The Language Wars is an essential volume for anyone interested in the state of the English language today or its future.


 

About Henry Hitchings

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Henry Hitchings was born in 1974. He is the author of The Language Wars, The Secret Life of Words, Who’s Afraid of Jane Austen?, and Defining the World. He has con­tributed to many newspapers and magazines and is the theater critic for the London Evening Standard. He lives in London.
 
Published October 25, 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 417 pages
Genres: Education & Reference. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Language Wars

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“When I was younger,” he writes (the author was born in 1974), “one of the most common complaints I heard about any aspect of the English language was the change in the use of the word gay.” No longer a word meaning “merry” among the oldsters, “gay” had come to mean something else—though it had c...

Oct 15 2011 | Read Full Review of The Language Wars: A History ...

The Guardian

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The Language Wars: A History of Proper English by Henry Hitchings Buy it from the Guardian bookshop Search the Guardian bookshop "A language," Hitchings writes, "is...

Feb 13 2011 | Read Full Review of The Language Wars: A History ...

The Guardian

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The state of the English language, like the state of the British weather, prompts perpetual disappointment and occasional outbursts of fury.

Feb 12 2011 | Read Full Review of The Language Wars: A History ...

Publishers Weekly

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The self-appointed guardians of good usage can be irate: “Just ask the language professors who have received hate mail for refusing to take a stand against split infinitives.” (Hitchings himself defends the familiar Star Trek opening: “The assonance of ‘to boldly go’ is more striking—...

Aug 29 2011 | Read Full Review of The Language Wars: A History ...

The Wall Street Journal

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He knows that the meanings of words change over time, and rightly deplores the conceit of those "fusspots" who berate people for incorrect usages, but "I wince," he admits, "when 'hysterical' is used as a synonym for 'hilarious.' " Ambivalence is an excellent quality in a historian, however, and...

Nov 23 2011 | Read Full Review of The Language Wars: A History ...

The Economist

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HENRY HITCHINGS was certainly right when he wrote in "The Language Wars" that “wherever more than one language is used, conflict of some kind is inevitable.” Last week a conflict of the physical kind broke out amongst members of the Ukrainian Rada (parliament) in Kiev, where members were debating...

May 30 2012 | Read Full Review of The Language Wars: A History ...

The Telegraph

After all, it was only 70 years since Alexander Pope, no slouch in verbal propriety, showed his own pronunciation of the word in a rhyming couplet (about Joseph Addison): “Dreading ev’n fools, by flatterers besieg’d,/ And so obliging, that he ne’er oblig’d.” Melvyn Bragg mentioned the...

Feb 14 2011 | Read Full Review of The Language Wars: A History ...

PopMatters

(Indeed, Hitchings points out that people who speak English as a second language outnumber those for whom it is their first language, a state of affairs that is likely to radically affect what English becomes in the future.) Hitchings two-part thesis is simple: English, like virtually all langua...

Feb 06 2013 | Read Full Review of The Language Wars: A History ...

Scotsman.com

Under the guise of being a genial history of the development of the English language - from the arrival of Germanic settlers in the fifth century right up to the emergence of what he calls Multicultural London English - The Language Wars is an attack on all who have ever thought there is any righ...

Feb 28 2011 | Read Full Review of The Language Wars: A History ...

BBC History Magazine

We begin with The Language Wars: A History of Proper English by Henry Hitchings.

Feb 24 2011 | Read Full Review of The Language Wars: A History ...

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