Eats, Shites, and Leaves by Michael O’Mara is a parody about the way English is used and misused. A subtitle of Crap English and How to Use It assures me that I will have fun reading it. This can’t be reviewed as I do many novels because it more resembles a collection of lists. A trendy modern term which some online publications and blogs use is “listicle.” I actively avoid listicles. It is as if authors of listicles are publishing their mind maps and it is the reader (me) who must connect the dots. This parody is not a collection of mind maps. O’Mara provides short introductions to sections and explains the origins of words and phrases in the section while adding personal observations.
Still, reviewing a work like this is like reviewing a dictionary or a phone book. I will provide a few example sections and phrases I thought clever. Readers can also find an index at the back of the book with links back to specific examples. There are sections on phrases and words that can be used in place of overused words. There are sections of loanwords from other languages that have become standard and incorrectly used in modern, everyday language. There are several sections on clichés. Several sections examine unfortunately phrased English that resulted in grammatically correct sentences but with meanings the original authors probably did not intend.
This is an informative and entertaining novel. It is not an all-encompassing reference work for writers although it can fit in a collection of several other reference works. Some of those are also listed at the end of this novel. This has 176 pages and sells on Amazon for USD 0.99. The novel’s digital publication date is 2014. It is good to note this date when looking at a section describing “modern” slang. The collection is better than OK (three stars) but less than four stars although I will round it up to four stars on the Amazon website. I feel the actual rating should be less than four stars because most of the content is taken from others for lists. Credit is given to original presenters of phrases (George Bush, Dan Quayle) but I have an aversion to listicles even if, as in this case, they are better than other listicles. On to examples.
THE COMPLETE RULES OF GOOD WRITING (1) ***** There are several of these sections. Prescriptive rules are some of my favorite things to make fun of. Here are a couple of examples:
Always finish what you star
Always avoid annoying alliteration.
Avoid clichés like the plague – they’re so old hat. (p. 14)
TEN EXAMPLES OF CRAP ENGLISH ***** (nope, not ten here, just a couple).
- She liked cooking Delia Smith in particular.
4. He put on his dress shirt and shoes. (p.15)
NO WONDER CHILDREN AREN’T LEARNING GOOD ENGLISH IF THEY FOLLOW THESE EXAMPLES
‘Why not have the kids shot for Easter, or have a family portrait taken? What have you got to lose?’
‘Dog for sale: eats anything and is fond of children.’ (p.16)
As you can see by the referenced pages, the sections are short. There is a section for modern terminology trends. My favorite in that section is “mouse-potato.” Think couch potato, apply the aging process and you have the definition.
Politicians take the fall for a lot of language errors in this collection. That is bound to happen when a person lives in the spotlight. Dan Quayle has always been one of my favorites. He offers, “I have made good judgments in the past. I have made good judgments in the future.” (p. 147). His views on child care were expressed by, “Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child.” (p. 109). That appears as a dark comment in days when families are torn apart at the US southern border.
Even our Great Communicator can get it wrong sometimes. Ronald Reagan came out with “There is a mandate to impose a voluntary return to traditional values.” (p.89).
For a light-hearted look at English language use, give this a try. There will be smiles*, chuckles, and grins.
*smiles* One of the longest English words because there is a mile between s****s. Yes, there is a section on puns.