In Dickens’ strange mind, mists were lazy, houses crazy, and snowflakes went into mourning and wore black. It’s terrifying and it’s beautiful, but the simple movement of the adjective has been left far behind. You can never tell, when Dickens talks about a threatening house or a miserable mist, whether anybody was meant to have these emotions in the first place. This was not the classic transferred epithet, it was the dark heart of Dickens’ mind, and we should leave in a hurry.
—  The Elements of Eloquence, Mark Forsyth

Essentially, Agamemnon gives a long speech commanding the Greeks to jenticulate (which is the posh way of saying eat your breakfast). Achilles, though, is having none of it and gives an even longer speech pointing out that they are late for work (i.e. killing Trojans) and really ought to get on with it. Odysseus then weighs in with an even longer speech that essentially says, ‘It’s the most important meal of the day. You might not feel like it now, but when you’re bathing in the blood of your enemies, you’ll regret it.’ Achilles says that really, he’d rather not, especially as his breakfast always used to be made by his best friend Patroclus, whose mangled body now lies in his tent…

And that would have been that, except that the gods themselves are very keen that Achilles should have a hearty breakfast, so, at Zeus’s direct order, Athena descends from heaven and magically instils 'heaven’s most-to-be-desired feast’ directly into his body, thus allowing him to set off for work.

Then there’s a brief incident with a talking horse and the book ends.

—  Mark Forsyth accurately summarises book nineteen of Homer’s Iliad in Horologicon, a wonderful book about archaic and peculiar words, arranged according to whatever time of the day you happen to pick up the book.
NOSASCOMP: Why Green, Great Dragons Cannot Exist

In September of 2016, Matthew Anderson of BBC tweeted a photo that soon went viral of an excerpt from the book "The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase" by Mark Forsyth. The excerpt contained information vital to the English language. So I’m here to tell you, in more detail, the order in which adjectives must be placed and why exactly green, great dragons cannot exist.

Adjective Order (descending from easy to change to more difficult to change)

  1. Number* — five, several, many, hundreds
  2. Opinion — lovely, beautiful, useless, fantastic
  3. Size — big, tiny, large, great, minuscule
  4. Age — mature, ancient, young
  5. Shape — square, oval, round
  6. Color — red, blue, yellow
  7. Origin — American, English, Italian, German
  8. Material — wooden, cotton, silk, plastic
  9. Purpose — typing, whittling, grooming

Keep reading

The importance of English word order is also the reason that the idea that you can’t end a sentence with a preposition is utter hogwash. In fact, it would be utter hogwash anyway, and anyone who claims that you can’t end a sentence with ‘up,’ should be told up to shut.

Mark Forsyth, The Elements of Eloquence

(one of the many moments I fell in love with this guy’s approach to writing technique. Seriously this book is great.)

Found a picture of Brandon Forsyth with the family!! Brandon is the third from the right. 

Left to right: 

Kimberly Rowe (½ sister by mom), Nick Tunstill (Rachael’s husband), Rachael Forsyth Tunstill, Mark Rowe (step dad), kids, Jan Rowe (mom), Brandon Forsyth, Shelley Rowe (½ sister), Jared Sharp (Shelley’s husband)

Shit can be traced back to the Old English verb scitan (which meant exactly what it does today), and further back to Proto-Germanic skit (the Germans still say scheisse), and all the way back to the Proto-Indo-European word (c. 4000 BC) skhei, which meant to separate or divide, presumably on the basis that you separated yourself from your faeces. Shed (as in shed your skin) comes from the same root, and so does schism.

An odd little aspect of this etymology is that when Proto-Indo-European arrived in the Italian peninsula they used skhei to mean separate or distinguish. If you could tell two things apart then you knew them, and so the Latin word for know became scire. From that you got the Latin word scientia, which meant knowledge, and from that we got the word science This means that science is, etymologically, shit. It also means that knowing your shit, etymologically, means that you’re good at physics and chemistry.

—  Mark Forsyth (The Inky Fool), The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language
Writing book recs?

In anticipation of being asked for a christmas wish list I’d like to put some books about writing on my amazon list. Please share your recs!

What I want out of a book about writing:

  1. Beyond basic writing advice. I’ve been at this for a while.
  2. a specific focus. I just added ‘The Elements of Eloquence’ by Mark Forsyth because it looks interesting. I seem to recall reading about a series of books that were mostly ‘vocabulary about X subject’ - stuff like that is interesting to me. (if anybody remembers them, please shout, I thought I bookmarked them but no)
  3. No focus, and ideally not even reference, to getting books published. I have the ‘Writing Great Fiction’ series and when I got that (8 years ago?) it sent me into a very long dry spell of obsessing over ‘Is this sentence good enough!?’
  4. Lighthearted focus. I’ve got no patience for the whole Next Great Novel thing


Not sure what to get that young/budding/amateur writer in your life? Here are my top recommendations.

On Technique (Resources, Lessons, and Prompts)

The Describer’s Dictionary: A Treasury of Terms & Literary Quotations (Expanded Second Edition)

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The dictionary uses a unique reverse definition-to-term format that makes it easy to zero in on the term you’re seeking. Turn to the new section on sensory impressions, for example, to find vivid terms for “loud or jarring.”

And at the end of each section dozens of illustrative passages by notable fiction and nonfiction authors—including Donna Tartt, Michael Lewis, Zadie Smith, Khaled Hosseini, and Paul Theroux—bring the terminology to life.

Story Engineering

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Story Engineering starts with the criteria and the architecture of storytelling, the engineering and design of a story–and uses it as the basis for narrative.

The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises that Transform Your Fiction

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The 3 A.M. Epiphany offers more than 200 intriguing writing exercises designed to help you think, write, and revise like never before - without having to wait for creative inspiration.

The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase

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From classic poetry to pop lyrics, from Charles Dickens to Dolly Parton, even from Jesus to James Bond, Mark Forsyth explains the secrets that make a phrase—such as “O Captain! My Captain!” or “To be or not to be”—memorable.

How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times

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Clark covers how to write effective and powerful titles, headlines, essays, sales pitches, Tweets, letters, and even self-descriptions for online dating services. With examples from the long tradition of short-form writing in Western culture, HOW TO WRITE SHORT guides writers to crafting brilliant prose, even in 140 characters.

The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition

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This is The Elements of Style, the classic style manual, now in a fourth edition. A new Foreword by Roger Angell reminds readers that the advice of Strunk & White is as valuable today as when it was first offered.

On Inspiration (Memoir, Motivation, and Leading by Example)

Letters to a Young Poet

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These have been called the most famous and beloved letters of the 20th century. Rainer Maria Rilke himself said that much of his creative expression went into his correspondence, and here he touches upon subjects that will interest writers, artists, and thinkers.

Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking

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Art & Fear explores the way art gets made, the reasons it often doesn’t get made, and the nature of the difficulties that cause so many artists to give up along the way.

This is a book written by artists, for artists -— it’s about what it feels like when artists sit down at their easel or keyboard, in their studio or performance space, trying to do the work they need to do.

The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery

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Beginning with the metaphor of the archer’s arrow that cannot travel in a direct line but must rise and fall before it hits its target, Lewis deftly weaves together theories on failure from hundreds of sources. Moving smoothly from Wynton Marsalis’ thoughts on jazz improvisation to Al Gore’s reflection on presidential loss, Lewis’ chapters profile those who have achieved mastery in their field by following the indirect path, often moving backwards, losing out, experimenting, and playing the amateur.

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, 2nd Edition

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For more than twenty years Natalie Goldberg has been challenging and cheering on writers with her books and workshops. In her groundbreaking first book, she brings together Zen meditation and writing in a new way. Writing practice, as she calls it, is no different from other forms of Zen practice —"it is backed by two thousand years of studying the mind.“ 

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

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Though aimed at writers, this book is full of sage advice and razor-edged honesty for the average joe. If you’re a writer–and I claim to be one–it’s more than a few anecdotes and good advice; it’s a lifeline in the thrashing seas of rough-draftdom, a foothold on the sands of jealousy and vain ambition. Anne makes it clear that writing must be pursued for something other than mere publication.

Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life

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At once a memoir, a meditation on the artistic process, and advice on craft, Still Writing is an intimate companion to living a creative life.

Make Good Art

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In May 2012, bestselling author Neil Gaiman delivered the commencement address at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, in which he shared his thoughts about creativity, bravery, and strength. He encouraged the fledgling painters, musicians, writers, and dreamers to break rules and think outside the box. Most of all, he encouraged them to make good art.

The bookMake Good Art, designed by renowned graphic artist Chip Kidd, contains the full text of Gaiman’s inspiring speech.

The Artist’s Way

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With the basic principle that creative expression is the natural direction of life, Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan lead you through a comprehensive twelve-week program to recover your creativity from a variety of blocks, including limiting beliefs, fear, self-sabotage, jealousy, guilt, addictions, and other inhibiting forces, replacing them with artistic confidence and productivity.

Journaling Your Goals: Prompts, Motivation, and Advice to Help You Achieve Your Dreams

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Journaling Your Goals is a self-help book which introduces writing and journaling techniques for dreamers to help set, track, and follow through with personal goals and development. 

Week One: Here and Now 
-evaluate the current balance of your life 
-realize your values 
-start implementing small changes to make you more productive 
-learn how to track your productivity 

Week Two: Reflect: 
-look carefully at what you’ve accomplished 
-how your current behavior could bring you joy…or regret 
-how to overcome paralyzing doubt 
-how to combat fear 
-how to become a better you 

Week Three: Act On It: 
-associate hard work with good things 
-visualize your goals 
-automate your routines 
-use various techniques to "hack” your brain to respond positively to your efforts at productivity. 

Week Four: Moving Forward: 
-create your own manifesto 
-start a spiritual routine 
-celebrate your achievements 
-support yourself with self-care and healing techniques 

On Getting Work Done (Discipline, Habit, and Ritual)

Make It Mighty Ugly: Exercises & Advice for Getting Creative Even When It Ain’t Pretty

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The number one fear of all creative types—crafters, DIYers, makers, artists—is that failure lurks right around the corner. Crafty blogger and creativity guru Kim Piper Werker urges everyone to pick up their pen or paintbrush or scissors and make something mighty ugly: get that “failure” out of the way. This friendly book offers up a multi-pronged approach to overcoming creative fears through inspiring essays and anecdotes, interviews, exercises and prompts, and sage advice from all over the creative spectrum to help individuals slay their creative demons.

No Plot? No Problem! Revised and Expanded Edition: A Low-stress, High-velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days

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Chris Baty, founder of the wildly successful literary marathon known as National Novel Writing Month, has completely revised and expanded his definitive handbook for extreme noveling.

Write: 10 Days to Overcome Writer’s Block. Period.

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In this revolutionary book, psychologist and novelist Karen E. Peterson presents an easy, effective way to beat writer’s block in only ten days. Based on new brain research and sound psychological principles, this innovative program shows writers how to conquer writer’s block using a variety of exercises.

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work

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Franz Kafka, frustrated with his living quarters and day job, wrote in a letter to Felice Bauer in 1912, “time is short, my strength is limited, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant, straightforward life is not possible then one must try to wriggle through by subtle maneuvers.”
Kafka is one of 161 inspired—and inspiring—minds, among them, novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians, who describe how they subtly maneuver the many (self-inflicted) obstacles and (self-imposed) daily rituals to get done the work they love to do, 

Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives

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Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life. It takes work to make a habit, but once that habit is set, we can harness the energy of habits to build happier, stronger, more productive lives.
So if habits are a key to change, then what we really need to know is: How do we change our habits?
Better than Before answers that question.

2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love

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Have you ever wanted to double your daily word counts? Do you feel like you’re crawling through your story, struggling for each paragraph? Would you like to get more words every day without increasing the time you spend writing or sacrificing quality? It’s not impossible, it’s not even that hard. This is the story of how, with a few simple changes, I boosted my daily writing from 2000 words to over 10k a day, and how you can, too.

Butterflies, like the rest of us, are subject to the call of the lavatory, and butterfly poo is yellow, just like butter.

Now, you may ask yourself, what sort of person goes around peering at butterfly poo and then naming an insect after it? The answer, it would appear, is that Dutch people do that. Or at least, an old Dutch word for butterfly was boterschijte.

Of course, you may dismiss that last theory as poppycock, but if you do, please remember that poppycock comes from the Dutch word pappe-cack, meaning soft shit

—  Mark Forsyth (The Inky Fool), The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language

anonymous asked:

Hello, any books on linguistics you know that do not require much brain work? eg one to read before sleeping but still gives a lot of info, because it is written like a story? I want to learn something but most journals are not simple enough for me when I'm dead tired

Hello there! I’m not sure how helpful I will be, as I hadn’t done a lot of reading on linguistics before applying to uni. But let me see.

Very first book that came to mind when I read your message was “A Little Book of Language” (x) by David Crystal. The book is meant as a very basic introduction for beginners, and intended for pretty young readers, so it can be good as a light read before bed. Not a lot of terminology, he’s more about introducing basic concepts. David Crystal’s my babe in general. If you fancy a big book, you should definitely get his “Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language” (x). It definitely has lots of information, but never too deep. So you can read it beginning to end, or skim through, or pick random sections every day. Just an all around dreamy book that you’ll like having, but of course, has an English language focus. I would probably go for books written by linguists but intended for the general public for a light reading (Steven Pinker’s The Language Instinct springs to mind).

Edit: Come to think of it, “The Etymologicon” (x) by Mark Forsyth is also a cute little read!

These are the first two that came to mind, and I’m sorry for not being more useful, but I will open up the question to followers!

There’s always a strange feeling you get when you come across one particular line by chance. It feels somehow significant. That’s irrational of course, but humans are irrational creatures. Even the sturdiest, most down-to-earth chap will turn pale if he opens a book at random and sees the words PREPARE TO MEET THY DEATH.
—  Mark Forsyth, The Unknown Unknown: Bookshops and the Delight of Not Getting What You Wanted