Book Review : The Elements of Eloquence
I enjoyed, The Elements of Eloquence : how to turn the perfect English Phrase, immensely. The author, Mark Forsyth has a great sense of humour and writes in a witty manner. The book covers a wide range of figures of speech and even when a particular figure of speech didn’t interest me, I wanted to keep reading just because of the humour. Mostly though, the actual content of the book was informative. Although I was vaguely aware of many of the terms that Mark writes about, it was helpful to have the descriptions and even more so, to have so many examples, particularly from Shakespeare. This is expected as he was a great writer, but as Mark points out, he wasn’t born that way. His plays improved as he grew in his craft. Plus, Shakespeare may have been an even better writer than we realize, since it is apparent that he chose words that rhymed, but no longer do (eg. ‘prove’ and ‘love’).
One of the surprises in the book, for me, was the number of times Mark quoted the Bible. Unfortunately, not as someone who takes its teaching seriously, but rather from a literary point of view. However, it was instructive to consider how often the Bible writers employed figures of speech. My favourite example of this was on pg. 158 when Mark explained, the pleonasm, which is the unnecessary word, it wastes the reader’s time. He then quoted Psalm 121:1 “I lift up my eyes.” And then wrote: “As though anybody’s time were so valuable that reading the word ‘up’ might mess up their schedule.”
Overall it was an enlightening and fun read.