Focus Point - Good EnglishCommentary by Pete du Pont
August 01, 2001
I'm Pete du Pont with the National Center for Policy Analysis. Good, entertaining books about english usage are always welcome, from Edwin Newman's several books to John Simon's out-of-print-but-worth-finding paradigms lost to Brian Garner's dictionary of American usage. To these I would like to add Barbara Wallraff's "Word Court," which is now out in paperback.
The book is an outgrowth of Wallraff's column for the Atlantic Monthly in which she answers readers' questions about english, from the simple but bedeviling (is it "different from" or "different than"; "reluctant" or reticent"?), to the dauntingly complex - say, the best way to deal with diverging parallels or copulative verbs.
Wallraff comes down on the side of standard english, not as a change-averse word nazi, but as one who notes standard english gives us a range of choices about how to communicate almost any thought, allowing us to express our individuality as we make our points. She also has a fine sense of humor and irony - think of Miss Manners crossed with the best english teacher you ever had.
Those are my ideas, and at the NCPA we know that ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont. Next time, tax cut baloney.