Charles Harrington Elster


CHARLIE'S FAVORITE WORD

resistentialism: "seemingly spiteful behavior manifested by inanimate objects"
— Paul Hellweg,
The Insomniac's Dictionary

Resistentialism was coined by the British humorist Paul Jennings in a brilliant send-up of Jean-Paul Sartre and the philosophy of existentialism published in The Spectator in April 1948.

For more information about this word, read Charlie's article "Things Are Against Us" in Selected Works in the sidebar to the right.


Reckless Driving


Hardly a day goes by that I don't come across a reckless sentence that breaks my cardinal rule for accident-free writing: "Proofread, proofread, proofread before you unleash your words on the world!"

Here's a real beaut that appeared in Bill Center's "Padres Report" in The San Diego Union-Tribune (March 21, 2012, D4):

"Orlando Hudson is scheduled to return to action today after missing six gays with a groin injury."

Yes, you read it right. Where have all the copyeditors gone?

Profile of a Logophile

(Photo: Randy Hoffman)

Charles Harrington Elster is a writer, broadcaster, and logophile—a lover of words.

He is the author of the popular vocabulary-building program Verbal Advantage and the narrator of the audio version. His other books include Tooth and Nail and Test of Time, vocabulary-building novels for high school students preparing to take the college entrance exams; There’s a Word for It, a lighthearted look at unusual—and unusually useful—words; What in the Word? a salmagundi of word lore and wordplay in a question-and-answer format; and The Big Book of Beastly Mispronunciations, now in its second edition, which the late William Safire of The New York Times hailed as "the best survey of the spoken field in years."

Charlie's latest book, his tenth, is The Accidents of Style: Good Advice on How Not to Write Badly. His next book, Word Workout, a companion to Verbal Advantage, will be published by St. Martin's Griffin in December 2014. An audio edition of Word Workout, narrated by Charlie, will also be released.

Charlie was a consultant for Garner's Modern American Usage, and he is the pronunciation editor of Black's Law Dictionary. He has several times been a guest On Language columnist for The New York Times Magazine, and his articles have appeared in the Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, San Diego Union-Tribune, Copyediting, Verbatim, and other publications.

Charlie has been talking about language on the radio since 1985. He has been interviewed on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, Weekend Edition, and All Things Considered and been a guest on hundreds of radio shows around the country. With fellow verbivore Richard Lederer he founded and cohosted a weekly public radio talk show on language called A Way with Words from 1998 to 2004. Charlie is also a voice talent with more than 25 years of audio narration experience. You can listen to his demo by clicking on the link to the Shamon Freitas agency in "Quick Links" in the sidebar on the right.

Charlie was born in New York City in 1957 and earned his B.A. cum laude from Yale in 1981. He lives in San Diego with his wife and two daughters.

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Copyright © 2014 by Charles Harrington Elster.
Media outlets may reproduce or broadcast the text of this page.

Charlie at work in his home office in San Diego, on an ancient computer he long ago recycled.

Selected Works

Books
Articles
Charlie looks at how the relative pronoun who is taking over the traditional role of that and which.
Read Charlie's amiable rant on redundancy, which appeared in the August-September 2012 issue of Copyediting.
Timeless tips for aspiring vocabulary builders.
Charlie beats up on Merriam-Webster in the Boston Globe.
At a loss for words? Read one of Charlie's guest "On Language" columns for The New York Times Magazine.
Read Charlie's guest "On Language" piece about resistentialism.
Shopping for a new dictionary? Here's some sage advice.
Charlie's brave new words for a wireless world.
Read one of Charlie's articles in SPELL/Binder.
Read a profile of Charlie in San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles.
Letters
Charlie explains why he left the public radio show.