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The Highly Selective Dictionary for the Extraordinarily Literate
ISBN 0062701908 / 9780062701909 / 0-06-270190-8
List price $17.00
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In The Highly Selective Dictionary for the Extraordinarily Literate, Eugene Ehrlich pulls no punches about his intent. This book and its companion, The Highly Selective Thesaurus for the Extraordinarily Literate, are prescriptive rather than descriptive, dedicated to recording language as it should be rather than how it often is. In the preface, Ehrlich announces that he means his book to be an "antidote" to the "effects wrought by the forces of linguistic darkness"--meaning, of course, all lexicographers more permissive than he is. That said, Ehrlich's conservative approach handily disposes of many thorny usage problems. The entry for "effectual," for example, distinguishes between "effective" and "effectual" in a concise and utterly persuasive way: "...a law that is effective--operative, in effect--becomes effectual--answers its purpose--only when the law is enforced."
This is not your ordinary dictionary; Ehrlich thinks that defining everyday words with commonly accepted meanings is a massive waste of time. Instead, he concentrates on unusual words or those that present interesting problems. The result is a fascinating dictionary that can be read cover to cover, like a book; do so and your vocabulary may never be the same again. [via]