A Word in Your Ear

by Philip Howard. Oxford University Press, $12.95. The Literary Editor of The Times of London believes that despite all attempts at reform and preservation, the English language remains “in rude health.” He likes to root around in it, however, and his essays on the history, perversion, use, and misuse of words turn up odd and amusing bits of information. He is even capable of attempting to explain, to his English readers, the use of “tailback” in American football—surely valor beyond the call of duty.