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Vocabula bound (review)

From: Language
Volume 83, Number 2, June 2007
pp. 459-460 | 10.1353/lan.2007.0077

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BOOK NOTICES 459 the linguistic diversity in these countries, and which languages and to what extent services (for example, interpreting and translation) are provided. Part 2 explores the subject ‘Language at home and at school’. Home is the locus for first-language learning, including where bilinguals learn their family language(s). The author states that families who speak languages other than English in inner-circle countries ‘are involved in a cost benefit analysis’. While the costs are considerable, E sees the benefits for families as ‘far greater’ (91). The heart of this part of the book deals with language and education, starting first with a historical account and continuing with the present state of language and education in the inner-circle countries. Education is, of course, vital to the maintenance and reputation of languages. A discussion of linguistic oppression and marginalized languages, on the one hand, along with a description of community efforts to maintain minority languages, on the other, provides a balanced view of the treatment of language and education in countries where English is the principal language. The book closes with Part 3, ‘Language in the wider community’. The topics in this section vary widely and include the economy, the media, the arts, and diplomacy and defense. The last chapter in the book is entitled ‘Is life really too short to learn German?’. After considering English-only policies, court cases involving minority languages, as well as some benefits of bilingualism, the author concludes that other languages enrich rather than unnecessarily complicate life in the English-speaking world. Despite dissenting voices and some consequences of the belief that English should be uncontested in innercircle countries, E maintains that ‘Life, it would seem, is quite long enough for us to acquire a collective knowledge of German, Chinese, Urdu, and many other languages’ (222). This book establishes multilingualism as a given in the English-speaking world, while it also describes the barriers facing multilinguals there. The author has succeeded in bringing the literatures of language diversity in these different countries together in one volume, and she has done this with clarity and a touch of humor. [JOYCE MILAMBILING, University of Northern Iowa.] Vocabula bound. Ed. by ROBERT HARTWELL FISKE. Oak Park, IL: Marion Street Press, 2004. Pp. viii, 197. ISBN 0972993762. $19.95. The Vocabula Review is a monthly online journal dealing with English grammar and usage. According to information given in the foreword and repeated on the back cover, it ‘battles nonstandard, careless English and embraces clear, expressive English’. This volume, far too prescriptivist in orientation for a sophisticated linguistic audience, consists of twentyfive essays and twenty-five poems originally published in the periodical. My remarks deal with none of the poetry and but fourteen of the essays, chosen in accordance with my background and interests. The remaining essays and their authors are listed at the end. KELLY CANNON’s ‘Lawyers vs. language’ (13–15) addresses the ‘linguistic renaissance’ (15) needed to correct sentences written by many an attorney, such as ‘While riding her bicycle, two dogs attacked my client’ (13). One also learns that Microsoft Word’s spell checker corrects the legal ‘tortious’ (related to tort) to ‘tortuous’ (13). STEVE COOK’s ‘Writing down to readers’ (16–19) offers praise to linguistic pundits and mavens, such as William F. Buckley and William Safire. Further, Cook cautions, ‘the writer who practices puffery will blunder’ (19). DAVID ISAACSON’s ‘Kvetching about literary criticism’ (23–30) kvetches about the kvetchers, asserting: ‘The same professors who try to teach students how to write clear expository prose themselves write a clotted mush unfit for human consumption’ (23–24). MARYLAINE BLOCK’s ‘Grammar matters’ (51–54) is an overstated diatribe against the passive voice: ‘euphemism and the passive voice have helped give Holocaust denial an aura of intellectual respectability’ (53). TIM BUCK’s ‘The art of conversation’ (55–60) is, like the preceding sad diatribe, a complaint against speakers whose ‘syntax [is not] supple, [and whose] vocabulary [is not] conditioned to acts of creation’ (57). Can or should one make every shopping list sound like the Declaration of Independence or the Gettysburg Address? JOSEPH EPSTEIN, in ‘Upsizing’ (61–63), seems to feel an urgency to...