Thursday, 8 May 2008

Booking through Thursday
Writing guides, grammar books, punctuation how-tos . . . do you read them? Not read them? How many writing books, grammar books, dictionaries — if any – do you have in your library?
Lots! Not only because my line of work has been writing and copy-editing, but also because the English language fascinates me.
I have several books on quirky aspects of the language: its common phrases, synonyms, colloquialisms, that sort of stuff.
These are like the twittering strangers you meet at parties: fashionably dressed, quick with polite smiles and chit-chat. You can ask them superficial questions, but don't get in too deep.
But then I have my really good mates — I don't care what they look like or how fashionable they are, they've stuck with me and stood by me. It doesn't matter how deep and dirty the problems I throw at them are, they'll always be able to answer them.
These are my good mates:
• The most authoritative dictionary 'of Australia's English', the Macquarie. I also subscribe to it online, which is handy, because as well as showing you correct spellings, it has recordings of most words so you can hear them pronounced with that soft, warm Australian lilt! K'noath!
• The two-volume Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, which is wonderful for its etymology and historical references for words, with quotes showing their use.
• Latin-English, Italian-English and French-English dictionaries of varying qualities, but good enough for a quick look-up.
• Fowler's Modern English Usage, and the Oxford Companion to the English Language. If they can't sort out your problem, you're in really weird territory.
• The brilliant Australian Commonwealth Government Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers and the incomparable Strunk & White's The Elements of Style (did you know this was the White who wrote Charlotte's Web?). I love both these to bits. They are mesmerising in their detail and scope, and both have been frequent bedside reading.

6 comments:

Simply Shannon said...

Fowler's Modern English Usage, and the Oxford Companion to the English Language...I think I used both in college.

Great List! Happy Thursday!

gautami tripathy said...

You beat me to it. Here I was thinking I have too many of such books!

My BTT post!

John Mutford said...

Lately I've heard lots about Elements of Style. If I ever come across a copy, I'll definitely pick it up.

Laura Jane said...

I challenge any readers to look up "K'noath" Lesley!!!!

But I agree - all the above are fascinating reads. I learned a lot from them.

And aren't the dictionaries just fun to dip in and out of? I have phrase/dictionaries/reference books for about 13 languages (incl one book with 5 eastern european ones). You never know when you will need them.

However my aunt in London take the cake. They are intrepid travellers and have a whole wall in their home dedicated to travel books with the requisite phrase books as well! And of course as a writer/playwright and journalist she has all the books you mention as well.

I love language!

Fairlie said...

Dictionaries, thesauri, style guides...I have a whole shelf of them. I refer to the government Style Guide frequently.

Ulla said...

I love books like that, but they belong to my previous life. Now I subscribe to a Finnish language magazine and use the Finnish-English General Dictionary by V.S. Alanne, and Glossary of Arts and Crafts by Anja McGifford. And I never know if the terms I use are British or American English.