Posts Tagged ‘language’

Store Bits: Staff Choices

Friday, September 20th, 2013

I’d like to introduce something new here on the blog: our Staff Choices.

You can already read Staff Reviews here, as well as ABC’s annual Favorite Reads .  Our Staff Choices, however, have been sadly absent.  Silly, really, since customers in the stores often grab a book based on that little piece of paper with our recommendation on it!

So now I’m making amends, and presenting you with five Staff Choices picked from around the store at ABC The Hague.  I hope to be able to do this on a regular basis, but you all know how things work on this blog, right?  :-)

Viral Nation – Shaunta Grimes

Recommended by Lilia

“What Clover always really wanted was to go to the Academy and learn.

When she’s instead drafted as a Messenger, she’s confronted with such a different world than the one she grew up in that she will have to choose which way to follow: conform or revolt.

Having an autistic young person as the main character is refreshing and interesting. Shaunte Grimes shows us that even with limitations, people can overcome everything when motivated enough.”

Mother Tongue – Bill Bryson

Recommended by Tom

“Did you know that:

  • the word ‘nice’, over a 400-year period had 14 different meanings;
  • the word ‘landscape’ is of Dutch origin;
  • Japanese has no native swearwords;
  • English has had more than 1400 words to describe ‘having sexual intercourse’?

This book not only describes the history of the English language but also gives many interesting facts about other languages.

If you love languages this is a fascinating and highly recommended read!”

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – John Berendt

Recommended by Ester

“If you’re not a big fan of non-fiction – like me – don’t be alarmed by the genre description. It really reads like fiction: thriller, drama, wit, you’ll get it all and at a very high quality at that.

Every time when reading I had to remind myself I was reading non-fiction, that the people described really exist and that the things happening have actually happened in real life.

Some things I considered too weird to be true, but hey, the world is a strange place, especially a remarkable town called Savannah.”

Ebook available here.

The Fictional Man -Al Ewing

Recommended by JeroenW

“This book isn’t half as serious as the cover makes it seem, in fact, for the most part it’s quite funny.

It’s about an alternate reality where fictional characters are grown in laboratories to play themselves in movies and tv-shows.

The main character is the author of the crappy Kurt Power novels, and he would like nothing more than to see his creation be made real. Instead, he’s offered a chance to write the script for the remake of a B-Movie from the sixties.

Highly recommended for movie and tv geeks, as there are tons of references to popular flicks and shows.”

Ebook available here.

Virgin River – Robyn Carr

Recommended by Sophie

“Looking for a well-written contemporary romance series with great characters and genuinely moving emotional scenes?  Well, you’ve found it, starting with Virgin River. :-)   No vampires, no shapeshifters, no millionaires, just plain ol’ love stories that warm the heart.

One of the best series I’ve read in a while.”

Ebook available here.

This Just In: Reference/Language

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Five Brand-New Titles from the Reference/Language Section:


Lit Links: for the lexically lacking

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Recently I’ve been getting quite a lot of compliments on how good my English is. On a recent trip to Birmingham (West Midlands,  not Alabama) a shop assistant told in me I had a lovely Dutch accent, and how clever I must be to have almost entirely gotten rid of it.

I could have been very flattered were it not for the fact that I’m British.  I spent years losing the Birmingham accent I picked up while studying there, and even more years before that trying to shrug off the Geordie accent I grew up with in the gray and green wilds of Northumberland.

But the lovely people who praise my command of English may have a point. Since I’m immersed in Dutch language most of the time, finding the right word in English is becoming more and more difficult, to the point that I have to ask my Dutch husband to translate for me sometimes.  I appear to have stopped picking up new words in English too.

So here, for myself and the other lexically lacking ex-word nerds, are some lit links to help repair those broken down English language synapses.

Eggcorns are similar to malapropisms in that they are examples of using the wrong word in a familiar phrase. Where malapropisms produce nonsense, eggcorns sound so similar to the original word that they appear to make perfect sense, to the extent that some are eventually are absorbed into the language. Here’s a fascinating essay on eggcorns, which suggests that “this process of the masses’ getting it wrong until it becomes right is common, ongoing, and unstoppable.”

WordPower is a simple but addictive vocabulary game that can be played online, or as an iPhone ap. I’ve tried quite a few vocabulary games recently, and this is the only one so far that has a nice interface and uses words I didn’t already know.

There’s another (slightly easier) vocab game online, that has the added incentive of donating ten grains of rice to the World Food Program for every answer you get right. Ten grains may not seem like much, but it can make a real difference.

Want to make those new words stick? Here are Ten Tips to Improve your Vocabulary.

As a fun exercise at school in my teens, the best English teacher I ever had taught us how to avoid ambiguity in our writing by having us spot misleading newspaper headlines. Soon  the wall of her classroom was papered in perfectly awful examples of headlinese, like “McDonald’s Fries the Holy Grail for Potato Farmers.” :-) There’s a wonderful term to describe these headlines: crash blossoms.

And then there’s the Cupertino Effect, the tendency of a spellchecker to suggest inappropriate words to replace misspelled words and words not in its dictionary, to which even the New York Times has fallen prey. It may also have inspired Candidate for a Pullet Surprise, also known as The Spellchecker Poem. has a surprisingly good blog, full of trivia about etymology, word meanings and the written word. The scope is broad, the topics are hot,  and the presentation is fun: you can find out out why New York is called the Big Apple, what to call the biggest numbers in existence, and where the word ‘hello’ comes from.

It’s fifty years since To Kill a Mockingbird was published.  I think a fitting way to mark the occasion would be by learning to cuss like Scout Finch.

If you feel that your command of English is just fine, thanks – and of course, if you’re Dutch then it probably is - how about working on your vocabulary in a few fictional languages, like Avatar’s Na’vi, Star Trek’s Klingon or Tolkien’s Sindarin?

ABC’s Spectacular Summer Reading Extravaganza: The Non-Fiction Titles

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

So much time, and so many books…

Ah, the summer holidays are here, or just around the corner at least, for the vast majority of us.  Time to enjoy the sun and the knowledge you have absolutely no deadlines or appointments to make, apart from the one around twilight with a bottle of rosé and a few tapas.

And a good book, of course.  Nothing quite enhances a lazy summer day like a good book.

I asked my colleagues to recommend books from the sections they buy for, and, my word, they rallied! Below you will see their handpicked books – both new and classic – guaranteed to improve your summer in any area you want.

Since they came up with so many books, I’ve been forced to split this Extravaganza in two – the first part (posted yesterday) with fiction titles, and this second part with non-fiction titles.

As ever, the categories are completely arbitrary, but that shouldn’t spoil the fun, right?  We hope you’ll be inspired by one or two or maybe even ten of them.

Reference & Language

Indie Publishing – Ellen Lupton
The book all aspiring self-publishers should be reading this summer, in hot anticipation of a very cool machine that will be making its way to ABC Amsterdam this September! (more…)

ABC’s Favorite Books of 2009, part D

Friday, December 18th, 2009

BookstackAh yes, it’s December, the time of looking over the past year and deciding what was great, what was so-so, and what could be done better next year.  In what is now very much a tradition, the ABC staff has been rootling through the books they read over the past year to decide what were the proper gems and what were the baubles.  Over the next few days and weeks Hayley and I will be posting their favorites.

Which reminds me: we would love to know what your 5 favorite reads of the past year were (they don’t have to be books published in 2009).  Please send them to (it’s not too late!), and please include your mailing address so we can send you an ABC gift voucher as our thank you.

Part D is a very wordy one, as Aviva, Tom and Maarten will show you exactly why they liked each book they listed, and at length, too.  You’ll see some books already picked as a Top Read in part A, B, or C, but also books about homosexual necrophilia in animals, celebrity memoirs, and aspidistras.

Click on more to find out!