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How to Speak Politely and Why    by Munro Leaf order for
How to Speak Politely and Why
by Munro Leaf
Order:  USA  Can
Universe, 2005 (1934)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I love this delightful book, first published in 1934 as Grammar Can Be Fun, How to Speak Politely and Why. In it, Munro Leaf has great fun personalizing words as stick figures, each with plenty of character.

Ain't is depicted as a devilish figure lying down, teeth clenched, and with a mulish expression. The text advises, 'Never say AIN'T. That is being just as lazy as he is.' What you should say instead is presented next, accompanied by drawings of happy kids. The silly looking 'Wobbly Necks' are Uh-Huh and Un-Un. Gimme is a nasty spiderish figure, greedy arms reaching out in all directions. Can and May are nicely contrasted. Endings, like 'g' and 'ly' are encouraged. Leaf tells us that got 'is a weed that grows in sentences', and that not and no 'push and shove each other', and should be kept apart. Pronoun use and verb tenses are also addressed.

If your young kids or grandchildren are puzzled by the vagaries of English grammar or, heaven forbid, use words like gimme and ain't, then get hold of a copy of How to Speak Politely and Why and chuckle over its amusing lessons together.

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