The Grammarians  


The Grammarians
Sarah Crichton Books | September 3, 2019 | 256 pages

BO/OKISH. a. [from book.] Given to books. —A Dictionary of the English Language by Samuel Johnson Cathleen Schine's The Grammarians tells the story of Daphne and Laurel, word-obsessed twins bound together by their shared obsession, and also torn apart by it. One grows up to become a well-known language columnist, while the other becomes a poet—each poem an unlikely sampling of lines from a 1940s linguistics manual. Their once-united enthusiasm for words ruptures, and the twins find themselves divided by the long-standing descriptivist/prescriptivist debate about language. Daphne, the columnist, is devoted to preserving the dignity and formal elegance of traditional language; Laurel, the poet, is thrilled by the living, changing nature of English. The girls are infatuated with the beauty, mischief, and occasional treachery of language. Every chapter opens with a definition from Samuel Johnson’s dictionary; there are sibling battles over Fowler's; and the twinship finally explodes when the sisters battle, with fiery absurdity, for custody of their deceased father’s copy of Merriam Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition. In their debates about language, alternately playful and fervent, Daphne and Laurel come to define themselves, too. The Grammarians is not only a story of the delights and tolls of intimacy; it is also a celebration of the unity, and joyful comedy, of language and life.

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ISBN: 9780374280116
$36.50