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samedi 10 avril 2010

Eats, Shoots, and Leaves by Lynn Truss vs. Ate, Shot and Left by David Crystal (English)

Le présent billet a été rédigé par Jonathan Goldberg, que je remercie. La traduction en français sera publiée demain.

The complete titles of these two books are Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, written by Lynne Truss and The Fight for English: How Language Pundits Ate, Shot, and Left by David Crystal.

Chrystal, a Welshman, 69 years of age, has for many years been considered a leading exponent of the English language. He is a prolific writer, with more than 100 books to his credit.

His website is http://www.davidcrystal.com/ and his blog http://davidcrystal.blogspot.com/.

Lynn Truss, an Englishwomen, 55 years of age, is a relative newcomer. Her website is http://www.lynnetruss.com/.

Truss’s (note the correct use of the apostrophe) Eats, Shoots, and Leaves was published in 2006 and enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top of leading best-seller lists, such as that of the New York Times. It must have been many years since a book about grammar became a best-seller. But not all reviews were positive. The New Yorker wrote that the book presented itself as “a call to arms, in a world spinning rapidly into subliteracy, by a hip yet unapologetic curmudgeon, a stickler for the rules of writing” but the reviewer expressed the opinion that “it’s hard to fend off the suspicion that the whole thing might be a hoax”. The review then rendered a scathing criticism of Truss’s own command of correct grammar.

Truss has since written other books in “defence” (or “defense”) of the English language, including The Girl’s Like Spaghetti: Why, You Can’t Manage without Apostrophes.

Chrystal’s Ate, Shot and Left is a riposte to Truss.

This battle between these proponents of the two schools, the purists and the liberals, was the subject of an article in the New York Times in 2007, entitled Speech Crimes.


As mentioned in the article, another prominent English linguist, Ben Ygoda, author of When you Catch an Adjective, Kill It, takes the middle road.

A Book Worth its Weight in Gold

Chrystal's most recent book is The Future of Languages. Its genesis is a series of three Routledge Lectures, offered by the publisher in paperback format together with three DVDs at the princely sum of $200.

Details of the set are available on the publisher’s site:


But for those readers looking for “bargains”, the book and DVDs are available on http://www.amazon.com/ for $176, on http://www.amazon.fr/ for 100 Euros and on http://www.amazon.ca/ for 187 Canadian dollars.

The publisher touts the package as “an ideal resource for all university and A-level English Language and Linguistics departments that will be of interest to anyone involved in the study of language, especially those involved with teaching or learning English as a second language.”

As mentioned above, grammar books do not usually become best sellers. One should mention, however, the Facebook Group I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar, initiated by American law student Sharon Eliza Nichols. The group has 445,773 members, at last count. Nichols has also written a book entitled I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar: A Collection of Egregious Errors, Disconcerting Bloopers, and Other Linguistic Slip-Ups.


The New York Times has written of her: "Ms. Nichols is one of many young people throwing off her generation’s reputation for slovenly language."

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