Book: Between You and I: A Little Book of Bad English by James Cochrane

Mostly good but occasionally snobby

James Cochrane
Between You and I: A Little Book of Bad English
Icon Books, 2003
ISBN: 1 84046 483 6
UKP 9.99
126 pages

Between You and I is a small and useful dictionary of British English usage. The large majority of the advice applies equally well to American usage.

Alas, the book is marred a bit by the snobby tone that the author sometimes takes. When a book aims to educate, it is surely not helpful to insult the ignorance of people who need its education. Those people are potential customers. But Mr Cochrane suggests that we treat the incorrect form "in the throws of" with "ridicule and contempt" (p. 116). Similarly, for a book that is about helping us to communicate better, surely there is a better reason than "naffness" (p. 84) that a particular mission-statement is inappropriate. ("Naff" is British slang for "tacky".)

It's easy enough to extract what's useful from Between You and I and ignore the author's snobbiness when it comes up, but I suspect that there's no particular need to. I haven't yet gotten a copy, but I suspect that The New Fowler's Modern English Usage (the third edition) has most of what's good in this book and much else besides. The only reason that I haven't yet gotten a copy of that book is that I'm still using my well-thumbed second edition.

Posted: Sun - February 22, 2004 at 10:17   Main   Category: