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Notable: Mind your tongue

Three new books parse the past and present of one of the most illogical, difficult-to-learn languages on the planet: English.

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English (Gotham) by John McWhorter is a linguist's look at the multicultural history that helps explain the countless quirks of English grammar and usage.

Righting the Mother Tongue: From Olde English to Email, the Tangled Story of English Spelling (Collins) by David Wolman is a funny and fact-filled look at our astoundingly inconsistent written language, from Shakespeare to spell-check.

You Know What I Mean? Words, Contexts and Communication (Cambridge) by Ruth Wajnryb is a witty exploration by an Australian linguist of the many reasons why what we say may not be what we mean.

Colette Bancroft, Times book editor

Notable: Mind your tongue 11/22/08 [Last modified: Saturday, November 22, 2008 3:30am]

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