Saturday, February 2, 2019

A Handy Handbook On English

Board, School, Blackboard, Chalk, Font

While visiting a used bookstore last year, I came across Scribner Handbook of English by Albert H. Marckwardt and Frederic G. Cassidy, a wonderful reminder of how some things are timeless when it comes to words and language – and how some things really do change.

Originally published in 1940, I enjoyed the third edition, put out in 1960 – nearly six decades ago.  Below are a few select excerpts from a still-helpful guide to our language:

A Large Vocabulary
The English language has a very large stock of words.  The larger dictionaries generally record about half a million words.  Some authorities on language have expressed the opinion that perhaps our language is too richly endowed, that there are too many words that almost duplicate one another in meaning.  The opposing view is that a large vocabulary makes it possible to express a great many shades of emotion as well as of designation, and that individual styles may thus be developed.  Your problem is to find the appropriate word for every situation, a word which expresses as exactly as possible the meaning that you wish to convey, - one which will make your reader feel that it is just the word you should have used.  Joseph Conrad has said, “Give me the right word and the right accent [that is, emphasis] and I will move the world.”  

The Dictionary
At a conservative estimate, the English language has at least half a million words; the number increases every year.  Clearly no one person knows everything there is to be known about all the words in English or in any other language.

The word plagiarism came in to the English language from Latin.  In old Roman times plagiarius was a term for a kidnapper, one who abducted the child or slave of another.  Today plagiarism is applied to the stealing of ideas rather than persons.  A plagiarist, therefore, is one who copies or appropriates the ideas, words, artistic productions of another person, and, by using them without giving due credit, passes them off as his own.  In school this is looked upon as plain cheating.  There is essentially no difference between copying from a book in the library and from the examination paper of the student sitting next to you.  In either case you are claiming credit to something that is not yours.  In the out-of-school world, patent and copyright laws have been devised to prevent this form of dishonesty and to punish offenders.

Card Catalogue
A card catalogue is an alphabetical index of all the books, pamphlets, bulletins, and periodicals in the library.  The cards are filed according to authors, titles, and subjects.

Catalogues vary in their completeness, but you may always be certain that there will be a card for every book in the library filed under the name of its author.

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2019. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.

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