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Gordon Osmond's So You Think You Know English: A Guide to English for Those Who Think They Don’t Need One. Reviewed By James Broderick Of Bookpleasures.com
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James Broderick Ph.D

Reviewer James Broderick, Ph.D: James is an associate professor of English and journalism at New Jersey City University. A former newspaper reporter and editor, he is the author of six non-fiction books, and the novel Stalked. His latest book is Greatness Thrust Upon Them, a collection of interviews with Shakespearean actors across America. Follow Here To Listen To An Interview With James Broderick.







 
By James Broderick Ph.D
Published on May 20, 2011
 

Author: Gordon Osmond
Publisher: PublishAmerica
ISBN: 978-1-61546-414-2





Click Here To Purchase So You Think You Know English: A Guide to English for Those Who Think They Don't Need One

Author: Gordon Osmond

Publisher: PublishAmerica
ISBN: 978-1-61546-414-2


I have a lot to say about Gordon Osmond’s So You Think You Know English. But first, a quiz:

     Which of the following prospects causes you the most trepidation:
  1. Receiving a root canal without anesthesia.
  2. Getting stuck in an elevator with an insurance salesman.
  3. Being forced to read a book on English grammar.
As someone who has never experienced option 1 or 2, I’d still probably opt for either instead of option 3 – and I’m a word person.  But I’ve spent – no, lost – untold hours plowing through page after dreary page of dry-as-dust guides to proper English grammar (the mere memory of some of those dutiful readings is enough to send me racing to the nearest oral surgeon.).

It was in that "perspirative" spirit (I used this word, as I felt the review needed it, even though "perspirative" doesn't technically exist. I meant it in the sense of a situation that generally induces perspiration), that I approached Osmond’s book, whose subtitle nailed me, precisely: A Guide to English for Those Who Think They Don’t Need One. Well, I didn’t think I needed one, but if I hadn’t read it, I never would have discovered the meaning of the word “callipygian” (a well-formed buttocks, neither big nor wide).  Nor would I have discovered one of the wittiest, most informed, and reader-friendly books in a genre not known for its accessibility, let alone its entertainment value. Osmond has achieved something quite rare: he’s written a grammar book that doesn’t shy away from the heavy lifting of terminology and prescription while still being fun and a little trippy.

Osmond (whose autobiography Wet Firecrackers is a highly enjoyable prose carnival of the bizarrely mundane) deals head on with all those terms you’ve been forced to confront since elementary school, but his manner of presentation is so refreshing, unorthodox, and adult that it all suddenly seems fresh and urgent. (the “adult” part manifests itself in the unexpectedly quirky nature of his sentence examples, such as “You should not smoke in bed alone,” and “After his guests left and before he went to sleep, Jack had his way with Jill, and his sleep was sound as a result.”)

The pattern of the book is familiar to anyone who has any formal study of grammar, moving from parts of speech to phrases and clauses and then sentences, culminating in larger-scale organizational tips. But before the book proper even begins, Osmond sets the tone with a deceptively thoughtful preface. He links linguistic facility to the arc of lasting human achievement, even in decidedly non-literary arenas: “Were it not for the ability of one generation of scientists to record in words the results of their efforts as a starting point for the next, we’d still be marveling at the wonders of carbon paper as a duplicating advice.”

This book is filled with such quirky asides and unorthodox observations. Yet for all its wit, it unflinchingly covers most of the hardcore grammatical bases. Osmond knows the language, and his ability to inject humor and anecdote into a traditionally desiccated genre makes him something of a hero to those of us who love and are attracted to the power of words. (A cautionary note: Osmond bravely preaches the value of sentence diagramming– a dying art but undeniably useful – but my copy of his book contains diagrams reprinted in such tiny font that I can barely make them out.)

Overall, Gordon Osmond’s So You Think You Know English deserves a place on the shelf of everyone who values the written word, either as writer or reader – except, perhaps, for those who equate “writing” with “texting.” As Osmond cautions: “If you can go through life with texting as your sole means of verbal communication, please donate your copy of this book to your local library, assuming, of course, you know where it is.”

 
Click Here To Purchase So You Think You Know English: A Guide to English for Those Who Think They Don't Need One