Thursday, August 6, 2015

First review is in!

Dinty Moore, author of The Accidental Buddhist and many recent books on creative nonfiction, has just written the first review of my new book, and it's a hoot. He probably should have written the book! Dinty is the editor of the short-short nonfiction journal, Brevity, and his blog is here. Dinty's review of Going to Hell in a Hen Basket is below:

A Review of Robert A. Rubin’s Going to Hell in a Hen Basket

A review from Dinty W. Moore

      In his new book Going to Hell in a Hen Basket, Robert Alden Rubin, a diehearted defender of grammar and true believer in the inherit goodness of proper usage, runs the gambit to perform do diligence and give us a load down on how common words and phrases are so often horribly mangled, offering readers a pain staking but hilarious journey amidst the strings and arrows of language misfortune.
     Girdle your loins, because Rubin looked off the bat and path in an effort to track down each and every mind-bottling nugget of homophonic excess, every instance of linguistic confusion reeling its ugly head.
     Frankly, I’ve been chomping at the bit to get my hands on a copy of To Hell in a Hen Basket: An Illustrated Dictionary of Modern Malapropisms. Not only does Rubin bare witness to these word-garblers who seemingly grew up speaking pigeon English, but he sets the goal standard, by honing in on the etymology of these linguistic egg corns, whether it be a case of pesky sound-alikes or deep-seeded hearing difficulties.
      By enlarge, the wholemark of these words and phrases we misuse or misremember is that they sound “almost” the same as the expression we mean, so in a weird attempt to parrot phrase, we end up with tortured constructions that fail to pass the mustard.
For all intensive purposes, Rubin reveals our mush-mouthed tendencies in one fowl swoop.
     Off course this bags the question, why would Rubin collect a full wheelbarrel of erroneous utterances into a hansom book?  Well, the result is the perfect gift book for word nerds, and he has to make ends meat, does he not?
     I’m a ten-yeared professor of English, so I certainly found some of these misused phrases so tone deaf that they through me for a loop. Or another words, they gave me a language-lover’s mind grain headache. I felt as if my brain had suffered most dramatic stress disorder, or as if I was having an outer body experience. At times, I wanted the author to seize and desist.
     In our modern world, these misspoken phrases are branded about willy-nilly, creating a brunt force trauma to our eardrums, certainly encouraging severe cognitive dissidence. But this is not altogether new. For instance, in Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing, there is Dogberry’s off-quoted announcement that he has just “comprehended two auspicious persons.” Or Irish playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s Mrs. Malaprop, who once praised a man for being “the very pineapple of politeness.”
     I am tempted to say that if Shakespeare can do it, so can we, but I am also tempted to take it all with a gain assault.
     Before you get your nipples in a twist, know that this book is chalk full of philological humor, leaving you thinking, “My word, Rubin’s clever tome is as funny as (explicative deleted).”
     Rubin, an instructor at Meredith College, a former editor at Algonquin Books, and author of previous books on contemporary poetry and the Appalachian Trail, seems to be a jack of all traits, but from his unique vintage point on language and how we fail to express ourselves clearly, he has it down packed.
      How does he find all of these goofy examples? He must have a photogenic memory.
I am internally grateful to Rubin for unearthing these jar-dropping tongue jumbles. My favorite of all is probably those folks will cut off their nose despite their faces, but the constellation prize goes to all of us who compete in our doggy dog world.
      Trust me, you’ll double over into a feeble position at some of these not-so-bon-mots.
      Time to batter down the hatches and buy this book.
Dinty W. Moore, founding editor of Brevity, is deathly afraid of polar bears.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Malapropism of the Day -- "Case and Point"

and point, case
“In point” was a 17th century expression meaning “pertinent,” so case in point meant a pertinent case. Now confused with two associated things--a case and a point, much as set and match are associated with tennis victory. Recent example: “One case and point, Rodney King. May he rest in peace.” retrieved 13 may 2014

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Malapropism of the Day — "And Nauseam"

and nauseam
Variants: and infinitum, and hoc. See also: and absurdum, and hominem, hock. English’s and often gets mixed up with the Latin ad (to or on), usually with the sense of another Latin phrase, et cetera. Most malapropagandists aren’t thinking of the translation (to the point of nausea, or to infinity, or for this specific purpose), but rather just the idea that it’s something extra. Recent example: “But with nature versus nurture, the dichotomy is all in the eye of the beholder, and the real situation is much more complex (as is pointed out and nauseum).” retrieved 10 apr 2014.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Malapropism of the Day--"Alterior Motive"

alterior motive
Merges alternative (other) with ulterior (hidden) to mean other motive. Recent example: “I don't have an alterior motive and I am not paid to do this.” retrieved 9 apr 2014

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Malapropism of the Day—"Alcatraz Around (My) Neck"

Alcatraz around (my) neck
Confuses the bad reputation of a famous prison with that of the speaker in Coleridge’s famous poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, who brings misfortune on the ship by killing an albatross, and whose fellow sailors force him to wear it around his neck in penance. Boston’s mayor from 1993–2014, Thomas Menino, was famous for malapropisms—including this goof. Recent example: “I always found a job to be like an Alcatraz around my neck.” retrieved 3 may 2014

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Malapropism of the Day: "Cutting Age"

 age, cutting
Mixes cutting edge, a metaphor for technological newness, with modern age, a characterization of recent history connoting up-to-date technology and attitudes. Recent example: “In businesses I bring cutting age innovation, to assist leadership and their teams transform themselves and their business.” retrieved 20 may 2014

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Malapropism of the Day -- ADIEU


As some of you may know, I'm compiling a book of malapropisms for a NY publisher. Some are funny, some just curious. I'll be writing and illustrating it. At present, I'm still in the collecting/drafting stage, but I thought it might be fun to post a malpropism of the day. Since I'll have about 600 of them in the book, it should take me about two years to post them all, from A to Z. If you are inspired to submit to me some malapropisms you've run across, I'll welcome them!

Today's entry:

adieu, without further
Variant: much adieu. Conflation of adieu (good-bye) with ado (complicated doings, ceremony) to mean “without saying anything more.” Recent example: “Without further adieu . . . the next remix album is . . . *drum roll* Animal Crossing!”—retrieved 14 Mar 2014.