Thursday, October 22, 2009

Modern Commerce and the American Language

As many of you know, I -- and damned near every other contributor to this blog -- am a word geek. I don't profess to be a word genius, I just confess to geeking out about it.

I'm sure that no one gasped about that. Anyway, I was surprised to learn today that conventional bookstores, which are disappearing anyway, think that usage guides are passe' and thus unworthy of shelf space.

As the etymologists would admire, fuck that!

I got this letter from Bryan Garner. He's a pinhead and occasionally pompous, but his Modern American Usage (2d Ed.) is a daily read for me. Again, with a tip o' the hat to etymologists everywhere -- it fuckin' rawks!

If you’re a fan of my usage tips and Garner’s Modern American Usage…

I have a favor to ask of you as a loyal reader: In the next few hours or days, would you please go to or and buy one or more copies of the new third edition of Garner’s Modern American Usage as holiday presents? In fact, keep this gift possibility in mind through the end of the year, won't you?

I need your help in sending a message to the major bookstore chains: they’re not stocking the book because they’ve told Oxford University Press that they consider usage guides a “defunct category.” It’s maddeningly unbelievable. Please help me show them that they’re stupendously wrong.

Meanwhile, in the coming months you might ask about the book when you’re in a bookstore: ask the managers why they don’t stock copies, and encourage them to do so.

If you’re curious to see what effect you’re having, watch the rankings on or in coming days and weeks. We’ll be alerting the major chains to those numbers, and we want to get as close to the top 50 as we can. If you're trying to order and see that the book is labeled "out of stock," order anyway: the effort is also to ensure that the online booksellers keep adequate stocks.

In return for this favor – it’s a grassroots effort – I’ll be happy to inscribe copies that you send to LawProse for that purpose, if you (1) include a filled-out FedEx airbill for returning them to you, and (2) suggest an appropriate inscription.

Thank you for whatever help you can provide in this endeavor to show booksellers that the concern for good English is alive and well.

Bryan A. Garner

Shockingly, I have placed said Third Edition in my shopping cart.

If you're a pinheaded eff-head, buy it yourself.

Or at least mourn the death of everything that is holy and loved by the big JC himself


Garner mentions "fans of his usage tips" -- that would be subscribers to his daily e-mail of a geeked-out usage tip, man. Today's for instance, is on the development of the word nurturance. I steal a portion and offer it to my fellow geeks:

"Nurturance" looks like a needless variant of "nurture," but the words have diverged in their connotations. Whereas "nurture" means either "upbringing" or "food," "nurturance" -- a 20th-century neologism dating from 1938 -- means "attentive care; emotional and physical nourishment." If this differentiation persists, then "nurturance" will earn a permanent position in the language. For now, it remains relatively uncommon -- e.g.: . . . .


Mythical Monkey said...

Nurturance might be a word in need of a little nurturing if it's been around since 1938 and I've never heard it.

My personal theory is that most grammar disasters occur in one of two situations: (1) people trying to sound like William F. Buckley instead of like themselves, (2) the government inventing euphemisms for the latest bad news, and (3) academics covering up their lack of an original idea with ... dammit!

Amongst our weaponry are ...

Sgt. Cockring said...

Glad to see Garner getting proactive