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Debra Hamel is the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

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Updated 2-6-24. [Reviews are longer and have ratings. Notices do not have ratings.]

Books by Debra Hamel:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


paperback | Kindle | hardcover (US)
paperback | hardcover (UK)

THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


paperback | hardcover (US)
paperback | hardcover (UK)

SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)

ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)

IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)





Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



Book Notices | Rebel with a Clause by Ellen Jovin

Ellen Jovin, Rebel with a Clause

  Amazon  

Rebel with a Clause is a sort of grammar travelogue. Since 2018, Ellen Jovin has been setting up a folding table in public with a "Grammar Table" sign and answering any grammar-related questions that passersby happen to have. She started in New York, where she lives, but at time of writing, she and her husband (who films the interactions at the table for a Grammar Table documentary!) had hit 47 states. This book is an account of her conversations with people from all over, organized by topic rather than geography. Chapters include, for example, discussions of the Oxford comma (of course; I don't really understand the world's obsession with this one piece of punctuation); affect vs. effect and lay vs lie (see below); its and it's and your and you're and their and they're and so on. After each chapter, Jovin includes a quizlet so readers can test their skills.

I love grammar, but this book wasn't really about the grammar for me. It's more about the author's personality. Jovin is an immediately likable narrator who, with her friendly vibe, managed to coax a lot of people nationwide into talking about their grammar-related issues. She is far from a grammar scold, and in fact admits to some grammatical laxity that would draw ire from some, e.g., her lack of concern about the distinction between “farther” and “further.” (This is the sort of thing that may have earned her the term "rebel" in the title.) Anybody who likes grammar will enjoy the conversations in this book. If you're a grammar expert, you're unlikely to learn anything new, but I think you'll enjoy the experience anyway.

Two notes:

(1) This is the perfect place for me to promote the rule of thumb I propose for those who can't remember the difference between "lay" and "lie." It is this: If you're in doubt, if you're questioning which word to use, you almost certainly want "lie." Most people (especially those who are not bricklayers and are not involved with chicken farming) can get away with never saying "lay." Why?

"Lay" is one of two things. (a) It can be a transitive verb (one that takes an object), as in "laying brick" or "laying eggs" or "laying a book on a table." But how often do you say any of these things? Chances are, if you want to say that you put a book on a table, you wouldn't say "lay," you'd say "put." And I think you're unlikely to be confused when you're talking about bricks or eggs. (b) The second possibility is the one that trips people up. "Lay" is also the past tense of "lie." So, you might say, "I am lying down right now." "I will lie down soon." "You should lie down." "Lie down!" (Not "lay"  or "laying" in any of those cases!) But, if you're talking about the past tense, you'd say, "Yesterday I lay down." If that explanation is enough to make you remember the distinction, great, but if not, just don't use "lay"! Because you can get away with saying, "Yesterday I was lying down." So I repeat, if you're wondering which to use, you almost certainly want "lie" (or you can get away with using "lying").

(2) In her introduction, Jovin notes that one of the three states she and her husband did not set up shop in was Connecticut—despite its proximity to New York. They did visit Connecticut, but rather than doling out grammar advice, they got pizza. This is perfectly reasonable behavior, even expected. But as a native of New Haven, I'm sure I join a chorus of other readers from the area in my need to know, where did they get their pizza from?

Comments

1.

Good review of what sounds like a book I'd like! Your notes, though, were the highlight for me and made me both laugh out loud and exclaim with understanding! Thanks for the explanation of "lay" and "lie". I'll just make a mental note to ignore any verb use of "lay".

2.

Thanks for the comment, Gypsi! I think you would probably enjoy this book. (And I doubt you have to worry about misusing lay and lie!)

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