Foyle's Philavery: a Treasury of Unusual Words Hardcover – 27 Jul 2007
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I happen to be one of those people who love these kinds of books, though unfortunately they frequently get lost in the mélange of frippery that is located around the checkout counter at better bookstores. Anyway, Foyle, who happens to own such a bookstore in London, has collected a fair-sized book's worth of odd and distinctive words, his favourite of which is "kakistocracy, a system of government where the rulers are the least competent, least qualified or most unprincipled citizens"--a word we ought to use more frequently. (The Morning News Book Digest)
I have found many surprises in the Philavery - I didn't know that alopecia literally means fox mange! (Roddy Lumsden's Blog, www.booksfromscotland.com)
A treasury of unusual wordsSee all Product description
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The book is the result of years of word collecting by the author, Christopher Foyle, chairman of the famous Foyles bookshop in London. The `uncommoness' of the words included in the volume is defined by Foyle; as such many words in the philavery are familiar to me. Indeed, he states in the introduction that the US commander of the first Gulf War described information with little value as "bovine scatology". The author admits he had to refer to a dictionary to discover the meaning of scatology, which surprised me as I would not personally consider it an unusual word. The same goes for fabiform, exsanguinate, factitious, chino and countless more. Some words, such as `halcyon', were included not because they are particularly unfamiliar, but because of their fascinating etymologies.
In all, this would make a great gift with its attractive design and quality of production. And whilst the criteria for inclusion in the philavery seems somewhat spurious, and certainly subjective, this is a 230-page book full of obscure, quirky, fun, poignant words, so even if you know some of them already, there is still plenty to delight and inform word lovers.
Aside from the fascinating content, it's also a beautifully produced book with a lovely William Morris-esque front and decent quality paper within the covers (increasingly a rarity these days). My only tiny quibble is that some of the words it lists are a little quotidian.
Overall - it will make an ideal gift for the logophile in your life :o)
Funnily enough, Foyle says in his introduction that his mother-in-law coined the word "philavery" whilst the two of them were playing Scrabble, which is perhaps a bit of a giveaway.
I far more enjoyed the witty Superior Person's Book of Words series of books to these.
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