Do You Make These Mistakes in English? The Story of Sherwin Cody's Famous Language School

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2008-12-01
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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In the early 1900s, the language of America was becoming colloquial English-the language of the businessman, manager, and professional. Since college and high school education were far from universal, many people turned to correspondence education-that era's distance learning-to learn the artof speaking and writing. By the 1920s and 1930s, thousands of Americans were sending coupons from newspapers and magazines to order Sherwin Cody's 100% Self-correcting Course in the English Language, a patented mail-order course in English that was taken by over 150,000 people. Cody's ubiquitous signature advertisement, which ran for over forty years, promised a scientifically-tested invention that improved speaking and writing in just 15 minutes a day. Cody's ad explained that people are judged by their English, and he offered self-improvement and self-confidencethrough the mail. In this book, linguist Edwin Battistella tells the story of Sherwin Cody and his famous English course, situating both the man and the course in early twentieth century cultural history. The author shows how Cody became a businessman-a writer, grammatical entrepreneur, and mass-marketer whose adsproclaimed "Good Money in Good English" and asked "Is Good English Worth 25 Cents to You?" His course, perhaps the most widely-advertised English education program in history, provides a unique window onto popular views of language and culture and their connection to American notions of success andfailure. But Battistella shows Sherwin Cody was also part of a larger shift in attitudes. Using Cody's course as a reference point, he also looks at the self-improvement ethic reflected in such courses and products as the Harvard Classics, The Book of Etiquette, the Book-of-the-Month Club, the U.S.School of Music, and the Charles Atlas and Dale Carnegie courses to illustrate how culture became popular and how self-reliance evolved into self-improvement. This book will appeal to anyone interested in the history of English, the history of business, and American Studies generally.

Author Biography

Edwin L. Battistella is professor of English and writing at Southern Oregon University. He is the author of three previous books on grammar and language, Bad Language Are Some Words Better than Others?, The Logic of Markedness, and Markedness: The Evaluative Superstructure of Language.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. vii
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
An Advertisement That Never Changedp. 3
From Literature to Businessp. 12
Good Money in Good Englishp. 23
What You Want and Where to Get Itp. 36
The 100% Self-correcting Course in English Languagep. 45
Grammar and Vocabularyp. 61
The Finishing Touchesp. 73
Every Day People Judge Youp. 79
Just 15 Minutes a Dayp. 86
A Better Self: Manners, Music, and Musclesp. 94
Smilep. 105
Language, Culture, and Anxietyp. 117
Linguistics and the New Rhetoricp. 126
Study at Homep. 139
School's Outp. 145
The Sherwin Cody Legacyp. 160
Notesp. 165
Answers to Exercisesp. 190
Sherwin Cody Timelinep. 197
Worksp. 200
Indexp. 207
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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