origins

No, W. wasn’t the only one.  Find out which of our presidents (yes, plural) pronounced the word “nucular,’ all this and more in the new book Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language available on May5th.  This delightful, irreverent work debunks the many myths about our ever-changing language that have bamboozled word-loving fans of the authors’ popular blog, books, and broadcasts.  Library Journal gave it a great review.

Was George W. Bush the only president to say “nucular?” Do the British really speak better English than Americans do? Do French women wear brassières? Does “ain’t” deserve its bad rep? Should “niche” rhyme with “quiche”? Not so fast—the answers may surprise you! Brace yourself for chapters like these:

Stiff Upper Lips: Why Can’t the British Be More Like Us? In many ways, American English is more like the original than the variety now spoken in the UK. Americans have preserved much of the old mother tongue that the Brits have lost—yes, even the original accent!

Grammar Moses: Forget These Commandments. It’s never been wrong to “split” an infinitive, to end a sentence with a preposition, to use contractions, or to say “go slow.” If there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s this: Any so-called rule that makes you sound like a twit probably isn’t legit.

Bad Boys of English: And Why We Still Love ’Em. Believe it or not, “ain’t” has a long—and not so disgraceful—history. So does “axe,” which used to be the standard way to spell “ask.” And George W. Bush wasn’t the only president to say “nucular”—not by a long shot.

Lex Education: Cleaning Up Dirty Words. Some of the silliest myths about English are the result of our attempts to clean up four-letter words. No, none of those unmentionables are innocent bystanders, parading around as acronyms or ancient holy words. Learn why many Saxon terms are forbidden while the Latin versions are acceptable in polite society.

Identity Theft: The Great Impostors. No, Thomas Crapper didn’t invent the flush toilet, and Julius Caesar’s mom didn’t have a caesarean section. Furthermore, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker gave a lot of work to working girls during the Civil War, but he didn’t give us the word “hooker.”

An Oeuf Is an Oeuf: Fractured French. A French author’s pen name isn’t a nom de plume, a French woman doesn’t call her nightgown a negligee (or her bra a brassière), and a French audience doesn’t shout “Encore!” to hear Sam play it again. By the way, “niche” has long been pronounced NITCH.

Sense and Sensitivity: PC Fact and Fiction. The word “woman” isn’t derived from “man,” and there’s no “his” in “history.” The expression “call a spade a spade” isn’t racist, and “shyster” didn’t come from Shylock.

Prepare to change your mind about where words come from and where they’re going. English is being reinvented every day all over the world. It’s never finished, and that’s its greatest strength. But amid all this change, myths are born. Let’s puncture a few!  Visit Grammarphobia.com for more fun facts and info on the book.

Believe it or not, George W. Bush wasn’t the only president to say “nucular”

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