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Better Than Great: A Plentidinous Compendium of Wallopingly Fresh Superlatives Paperback – 1 Oct 2012


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Review

A bravura, ingeniously inventive, roaringly intelligent thesaurus of praise and acclaim oh, momma! Where has this paean-worthy, distressingly excellent book, which certainly goes the whole hog, been all my life? --The Bookbag

Erudite and written with considerable wit and style. . . splendiferociously wonderful. --Jonathan Pinnock, Write Stuff

This is the ideal gift for anyone who uses words so, well, anyone, really... If you tweet regularly, or write comments on Facebook every day, then be the envy of your friends and use words and phrases that are entirely original and convey the meaning of what you really want to say rather than accepting that the word great covers everything --Books Monthly

From the Author

For a mirific, mind-marmalizing, endorphing time, visit the book's website, freshsuperlatives.com --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x92f55a38) out of 5 stars 82 reviews
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x93133cc0) out of 5 stars Calling it Zoroastrian might be a bit much 22 Feb. 2011
By E.Swope - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
but, your use of language says a lot about you. Esteemed author and wordsmith Arthur Plotnik (The Elements of Editing a modern guide for editors and journalists ) has produced a tidy little antidote to the banal. Does "awesome" just not have the kick it used to? Plotnik explains in his brief introduction that overuse tempers impact. If you want to get your point across with panache don't use the phrases heard flying from every tongue.

This little book is a hybrid dictionary-thesaurus, drawn from a variety of sources as varied as the venerable OED to "Dagrees Great Aussie Slang" and the "Rap Dictionary". Words and phrases are assorted by tone and hue. Is it great? better than great? life changing? There's a word or phrase for it.

The appendices reminded me of a baby name book I flipped through years ago. In this section he provides information on words and phrases which are old but not abused, terms from across the ocean (whichever side of which ocean you are on,) txt-speak; words and acronyms drawn from our fast-paced texting society.

For some it will add spice to your writing or speech, for others, maybe cue you in to what your kids (or parents) are saying. For others still it will allow you to call attention to... those things you wish to call attention to: ebay listings, event announcements, business memos...
and for other still it will elevate you from the slum of linguistic turpitude. (Can I get a bulk discount of a pallet of these to hand to anyone who tacks "alicious" onto anything? If I could do that, maybe it would have a Zoroastrian impact on my existence ;)

I dithered over giving this book 4 or 5 stars. It is not one of the great works of literature east or west, does not define a new paradigm or solve an old mystery. It does do what it sets out to do very nicely and so deserves superlative accoldes just for that.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x93f5ee4c) out of 5 stars No more thesaurus dead-ends! This book helps you say what you mean. 9 Aug. 2011
By L. A. Carmichael - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has raised my benchmark for brilliance when it comes to writing with superlatives. What a relief, to move beyond "great" and "awesome!" I have been using this reference constantly for the past week and it has already earned a prime position on my desk. I now consider it a must-have for bloggers and critics.

In response to the negative reviews on this book... For those who thrive on precise organization, or who twitch compulsively when facing variability, this may not be the reference for you. However, for those who feel let down by their thesaurus when their brainstorming dead ends at the same old synonyms, this is the book that will get your mind moving once more.

Personally, I find that Plotnik provides just enough organization to make the book searchable, but not so much that the reader feels limited. Whenever I want to find a synonym for a word, I simply decide if my intended meaning falls into one of his fifteen categories. Did I want to convey size? I look under "Large." If I meant to convey a sensation in the body I would look under "Physically Affecting," or if it were a sensation of the spirit I would go to "Sublime" or "Challenging Belief or Expression." This may all sound vague, but I assure you it has worked well for me. A thesaurus nitpicks over semantics. Plotnick cuts to the chase and helps your say what you mean.

One more thing. For those who argued that Plotnik included too many whimsical or nonsensical words, I would respond that whimsy can come in handy when you least expect it. My blog post on cupcakes does not need the corny (and hilarious) term "Viagara on a plate" but if I ever write myself into a corner while describing a delicious barbeque sausage sandwich, I have a feeling it might prove useful. (And hilarious.) I admit, I may not be brave enough to tell my significant other that I find them coruscatingly beautiful, but what if that same person decided to, say, buy me a diamond necklace for Valentines? Do I want to find myself at a loss for words, limited to "wonderful" or "lovely"? No, thank you. I want to be able to say, "Thank you for the lovely gift, darling. It's coruscatingly beautiful."

So, if you are capable of using eighth-grade skills such as brainstorming, categorizing, and judging context-clues, then this might very well be the book for you. It will reduce brain-blocking headaches and add whimsy to your writing life, I promise.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92dc7984) out of 5 stars A joy for wordlovers! 24 Mar. 2011
By Seven Kitties - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is the best kind of browsing book, I think. He breaks positive words up into 15 categories and gives each category (such as 'joy-giving') a chapter, listing all sorts of marvelous adjectives that range from the erudite to the quirky. For example, under 'joy-giving' you might find 'festal' and 'felicitous' but also 'inner-space salve' and 'wit that could sharpen pencils'.

He also provides a tasty quote and little boxes, such as 'vintage gold' for each chapter, and one list of four adjectives that might describe wine. End segments include some textese praise, eponymous adjectives (Napoleonic!) and my favorite--the 'habit breaker' appendix of words to replace tired out zingless words like 'amazing'.

I love words, and it's clear that Plotnick loves them, too, and has spent time and humor collecting and collating this wonderful collection. And, strangely enough, it's hard to read a thesaurus of praise words without feeling...a little happier at the end.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92dc7c18) out of 5 stars Good for a one hour look 2 Mar. 2011
By moose_of_many_waters - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Better Than Great has value in that it makes you think about stretching your use of language a bit. Ideally this book should have been a 3000 or so word magazine article on how using novel words to express praise can make for more effective writing. What the author has done, though, is take something that would have been an interesting short read and blown it up to create a pseudo-reference book. There are thousands of words and phrases here that supposedly can be used in place of excellent, great, outstanding, etc. The lion's share of them are beyond ridiculous. I'd never use them, that's for certain. For example, no, I don't think it's ever a good idea to replace "delicious" with "amorously prepared". I'll save the kissing for after the meal, thank you very much.

If you got carried away and tried to use the approach here to express praise (and used a similar approach to come up with your own phrases for things you didn't like), the writing would end up comical, like something out of the fake 40's and 50's Hollywood tabloid articles you find in a James Ellroy novel (those fake articles are funny as anything by the way).

The book has so many silly, non-usable phrases that it becomes hard to find the good ones, much less the great ones. I'd never use this book as a reference. I did enjoy reading it however for an hour or so. It made me think about language in a thoughtful way, and that's always a good thing.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92dc7930) out of 5 stars This will add sparkle to my writing. And yours. 26 Feb. 2011
By Esther Schindler - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The waiter in the restaurant yesterday asked, "How is your meal?" and I unthinkingly replied, "Awesome!" Well, no, not exactly. The meal was definitely good, but it was not "extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear." Our superlatives have become so overused that they become meaningless.

Arthur Plotnik aims to help us remedy that dire situation in "Better than Great" by supplying nearly 6,000 alternative terms for praise and acclaim. It's easiest to think of this as an extended thesaurus for superlatives and other Happy Words, for when even YOU get tired of writing "this is great" or "she is beautiful." (Well, if you're writing the latter about me, I won't get tired of hearing it.)

The book is organized into several sections to categorize the many ways one can praise, such as the general "great" (suggestions include alpha, blue-ribbon, commendable), "beautiful" (perhaps you could say fetching? captivating? fatally handsome?), and "exceptional" (try "Louisville slugger amongst broomsticks," pioneering, the real deal). If 6,000 terms seems too overwhelming, you might appreciate the appendix in which Plotnik offers "Quick habit breakers: a starter set."

I won't say that all of these terms and expressions come naturally to me or seem suitable for the articles I write and edit -- but they are very good for breaking me out of my own exhausted phrases. I'm not sure that I will always edit out "cool" and substitute instead "beyond rad" or "ringside." But the book will encourage me to consider -- in context -- "bitchin,'" "nonchalant," or "jollying."

This book will find a comfortable spot on my desk, at least for a while. The freelance writers whose stories I edit may be surprised to see me suggest they replace "wonderful" with "pinnacular," "peerless," or "tweet-worthy." But maybe not for long. If you write or communicate for a living, this book is likely to earn its spot on your reference shelf.
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