In the review of Stephen Kotkin’s Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928 the author gives some examples of a allegedly bad writing and poor style of the biography. Here is one example.

Lenin was “badmouthing the other Marxists in the Soviet”.

Source: http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/06/02/kot2-j02.html

Can you tell me what's wrong with this sentence in terms of standard English?

1 Answer 1


You have to see the whole context.

Badmouth is a mostly colloquial verb used by people. Therefore, he just doesn't consider writing it in a biography is a good way of writing.

For a venerable Princeton professor and UC Berkeley Ph.D., Kotkin often slips into substandard colloquialisms: “a young political climber named Lavrenti Beria ate him for lunch” [854]; Lenin was “badmouthing the other Marxists in the Soviet” [200]; “The idea of counterrevolution was the gift that kept on giving” [290]; “But if Lenin sensed that his war commissar had gotten too big for his britches, the Bolshevik leader continued to give every indication that Trotsky remained indispensable” [329].

  • Thank you for your reply. Can you please explain to me the phrase "the gift that kept on giving" in that context. Is it meant that the idea of counterrevolution was a good opportunity which Stalin made use for his political purposes?
    – bart-leby
    Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 13:36
  • @bart-leby Without any context, you can never understand it fully. And I don't do that. They are just examples of bad writing. They are not presented for interpretation.
    – user24743
    Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 13:39

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