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Saturday, 27 April 2013

The Last Word, by Ben MacIntyre, Reviewed.


The Last Word, subtitled ‘Tales from the Tip of the Mother Tongue’, is a collection from the writings of Ben
MacIntyre, a columnist writing about books for The Times.

If you’ve ever pondered the mysteries of military euphemisms, considered the last words of heroes, wondered at the geek-speak of the computer nerd, laughed at inadvertently skewed translations or been curious about almost anything else to do with words, there’s something here for you.

The author has collected, listened to, been sent by readers, and purloined from reviewers many examples of neologisms, epitaphs, mistranslations, vanished words, malapropisms and many other interesting, amusing or downright odd usages of the words we use (or not) in everyday language.

Split into short sections, so that the book can be picked up for even a couple of minutes at a time, the material is varied in content but not in quality. All of the 300 pages are presented in a style easy to read, well-written, and generally tinged with humour. There are a few exceptions, when serious issues are up for discussion. The odd personal anecdote sneaks in amongst the more general observations and tales and brings a more intimate feel to the book.

I was entertained, educated, startled, intrigued, surprised, moved, and made to laugh out loud as I read the different pieces. If you have any interest in language at all, and, as a reader and/or writer, you clearly must have, you’ll find this a worthwhile addition to your library. Not only do I heartily recommend the book, I place it on that short and vital list of those volumes I’d save from the burning house or take with me to that famous desert island.

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