Damp Squid: The English Language Laid Bare

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OUP Oxford, Oct 30, 2008 - Reference - 192 pages
2 Reviews
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How many words are there in the English language and where were they born? Why does spelling 'wobble' and why do meanings change? How do words behave towards each other - and how do we behave towards words? And what does this all mean for dictionary-making in the 21st century? This entertaining book has the up-to-date and authoritative answers to all the key questions about our language. Using evidence provided by the world's largest language databank, the Oxford English Corpus, Butterfield exposes the English language's peculiarities and penchants, its development and difficulties, revealing exactly how it operates. Interpolating his expert knowledge of dictionary-making, Butterfield explains how dictionaries decide which words to include, how they find definitions, and how a Corpus influences the process. Whether you are happy to give the language free rein (free reign?), or whether you are more straight-laced (strait-laced?) when it comes to change, you will be amazed at what is revealed when the English language goes buck naked. (Or should that be butt naked?)

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User Review  - MarthaJeanne - LibraryThing

I didn't think this was wonderful, but there were many interesting bits. Although written from a British standpoint for a British audience, the corpus most of this was based on is 50% American and ... Read full review

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User Review  - SamSattler - LibraryThing

The English language, perhaps the most flexible languages there is, continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Some believe this evolution to be a horror, the destruction of a once proud language; others ... Read full review


The Corpus
How many words?
Where do words come from?
Why spelling wobbles
4 Which is to be master? Meaning in context
Word groupings
Idiomatic phrases
What do we mean by grammar?
Usages people hate
Dictionaries then and now

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2008)

Jeremy Butterfield has commissioned, compiled, and edited many major English and foreign-language dictionaries, and is a regular contributor to radio and TV discussions about questions of language use. He is particularly interested in how we all help language to evolve, and edited the Oxford A-Z of English Usage (2007).

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