Weeds in the Garden of Words

Further Observations on the Tangled History of the English Language

Weeds in the Garden of Words

Kate Burridge follows the international success of Blooming English with another entertaining excursion into the ever-changing nature of the complex and captivating English language. If language is a glorious garden, filled with exotic hybrids as well as traditional heritage specimens, then weeds will also thrive on its fertile grounds. Linguistic weeds may be defined as pronunciations or constructions that are no longer used. For example, Burridge points out how "aint" or double negatives were at one time quite acceptable in everyday speaking and writing but are now classified as "weeds" that should no longer have a place in our vocabulary. And, as she so deftly accomplished in Blooming English, Burridge goes on here to further celebrate our capacity to play with language, and to examine the ways we use it: in slang and jargon, swearing, speaking the unspeakable, or concealing unpleasant or inconvenient facts. In this new volume she gives us another fun and informative work for enjoyable browsing; for discovering intriguing trivia about language, history, and social customs; and for employing as a peerless weapon in word games. Kate Burridge is the Chair of Linguistics at Monash University and a regular presenter of segments on the Australian Broadcast Company.


"Popular treatments of English usage abound. But this book brings a fresh perspective to the topic, drawing an analogy between 'weeds' in a garden and so-called errors of English usage. This metaphor is sustained throughout the book and really helps the reader understand that many usages that we now condemn as 'weeds' ...were at one time quite ordinary members of the linguistic 'garden'." Professor Charles F. Meyer, University of Massachusetts, Boston

"[Burridge's] astute observations, dry humor, clear prose and fushion (yes!) combine to make Burrdige's well indexed book an enjoyable treat for logophiles." --Catholic Library World

'… the fact that a book can stimulate such debate is proof positive that the English language is a rude and robust health. We should all celebrate that.' Daily Express