Woe Is I

Woe Is I That guy is hot! That guy is cool! Hot and cool are opposites, yet they mean the same thing when talking about that guy. My Polish grandmother is going to polish her silverware. Amazing what a difference a capital P makes. The knight rides at night in the rain and gets pneumonia. Here we go again with weird English usage. Kn, n, and pn are pronounced the same.
English has many rules not found in other languages. For instance, most languages use articles with every noun. A, an, and the aren’t always chaperoning the nouns, which is a challenge for non-native English speakers to learn.
English speakers are no help when they get their own language wrong. For example, many use anxious and eager interchangeably. When you’re excited and can’t wait to do something, you’re eager. Anxious means feeling nervous where there is anxiety. If a child says, “I’m anxious about going to school,” is she looking forward to it or is she uneasy about it? It’s the latter.
Woe Is I covers this and other problems in the “Verbal Abuse” chapter. The infamous lie and lay; who and whom; farther and further; and bad and badly are covered. Did you know hopefully is used incorrectly? I’ve been guilty of it and it’s hard changing the habit because it fits at the beginning of a sentence or acts like an introductory word. While we can start sentences with actually, thoughtfully, and happily; hopefully doesn’t belong with the introductory clique. It’s an adverb. O’Conner writes, “…introductory words that we use not to describe a word, which is what adverbs usually do, but to describe our own attitude to the statement that follows.”
Would you believe that saying, “I’m nauseous” is incorrect? Well, if it’s true, it means you make other people nauseated. Nauseous is the something that makes you sick. Those suffering from morning sickness say, “I’m nauseated from the nauseous pregnancy (or coffee smell, perfume, or whatever causes it).”
O’Conner does a fine job of clarifying the problems and explaining the correct usage. In a few places, the explanation isn’t suitable and the reader might not understand how to do it right after reading it.
With chapter titles like “Therapy for Pronoun Anxiety,” “Comma Sutra,” and “The Possessives and the Possessed,” it’s easy to infer the book adds a dash of humor. Having written a few articles on grammar with humor to make it fun and easier to remember, I’ve learned how hard it is to do it. Don’t expect to fall down laughing, but look forward to a smile here and there.
The talk of grammar books for this year is Eats, Shoots & Leaves. If having both books is not an option, which to choose? Easy. Pick Woe Is I. Eats is for those who have a shelf full of grammar books and have a love of grammar. It’s not a good book for lessons on improving grammar although there are tips. There are more rhetoric and stories than how tos. Woe Is I offers advice on how to write right throughout the book.
Final lesson: If the word is singular, add ‘s regardless of its ending including proper names like Alex’s and Alexis’. Yet, a few pages later, the book indicates it’s customary to drop the final s when using possessives in ancient classical names like Hercules’ and Achilles’. Don’t you love the English language?
AUTHOR: Patricia T. O’Conner
PUBLISHER: Riverhead Books
ISBN: 1573226254
FORMAT: Paperback
PAGES: 227
PRICE: USD: 12.00
CDN: 18.00
UK: 9.48

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