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Dave Morice's latest book, The Dictionary of Wordplay (Teachers & Writers), is his seventeenth published effort to paint the alphabetic rainbow of the amazing English language. Previous works include eleven volumes of poetry, four books on wordplay and writing, three on cartooning, and a book on computers.
Why a dictionary of wordplay?
"Wordplay is always just a word or two away from the words we speak, hear, read, and write," Morice writes in the introduction to his dictionary. "It is present in the home, the school, the office, the store, the streets. It's on television all the time, especially on ABC."
He got the idea for a wordplay dictionary while editing the "Kickshaws" column for Word Ways magazine. The more familiar Morice became with contemporary wordplay, the more it seemed inevitable that he should write a dictionary. Surprised none had been compiled, he morphed the appendix to his doctoral dissertation-"Wordplay in Children's Picture Books"-into an appendix of wordplay terms that eventually grew into a full-blown dictionary.
With the recent publication of The Dictionary of Wordplay, Morice has given life to an astounding work. Indeed, The Times Literary Supplement of London, in a rare burst of approval, calls it "The most ingenious publication of the century so far" (TLS, March 23, 2001).
The Dictionary of Wordplay is for all lovers of language. For die-hard crossword puzzle workers, jumble fanatics, or Scrabble players as well as writers, educators, and linguistics, it's a "must-have" for the home or office reference shelf. Here are some samples from the 1,234 entries:
· Charade: A set of words formed by re-spacing-but not rearranging-the letters of another word, phrase, or sentence:
BEDEVIL = BED + EVIL PLEASURE = PLEA + SURE CRUMBLED = CRUMB + LED CHICAGO = CHIC + AGO
·Exquisite Corpse: Three or four players write an article and an adjective on a sheet of paper and then fold the paper to cover the words. The players exchange papers, add a noun to the new paper, and fold the paper again. They repeat this procedure with a verb and then with another article and adjective, and they finish with another noun. The results are read aloud to general bafflement.
·Hidden Middle Name or Overlapping Word: Take a person's first and last name and see if the letters join in the middle to form another name or word: oMAR SHArif, daLE Evans, ezRA Pound, and hORATIO Nelson
·TWENTY NINE: Write out the number 29 in capital letters: TWENTY NINE. Then count the number of straight lines in the number's name. It's the only number that counts the straight lines in its name. There are 29!"
A native of St. Louis, Dave Morice lives in Iowa City, where he earned an M.F.A at the renowned Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. He is presently at work on the ever-expanding second edition to The Dictionary of Wordplay as well as The Dictionary of Incredible Words. His poems and cartoons have appeared in hundreds of magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, Word Ways, and The Actualist Anthology. Such disparate publications as the Village Voice and The Wall Street Journal have featured him and his work.
Lovers of word games and other forms of word and letter play should also check out Morice's Alphabet Avenue: Wordplay In The Fast Lane (Chicago Review Press)-353 pages of palindromes, word and letter puzzles, anagrams, panagrams, and puns-and The Adventures of Dr. Alphabet (Teachers & Writers), which presents 104 unusual ways to write poetry in the class and the community.
--James Denigan, freelance writer