Weird and Wonderful Words Hardcover – 1 Oct 2002
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this is a book that will enhance both your logodaedaly and your eutrapely. For all its nidgery appearance, it merits not a suirk but a place on the pluteus of your sitooterie (Daily Express)
a fascinating new dictionary (Daily Mirror)
About the Author
Erin McKean (Senior Editor, US Dictionaries Program) is the editor of the language quarterly Verbatim. Roz Chast (cartoonist) is the staff cartoonist for the New Yorker and author of more than five cartoon books.
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I only wish there were more words in it. Maybe they'll do a Weird Words 2. I'm going to keep this one and order another one for my dad.
Organized alphabetically in a dictionary format, each entry, written in a conversational style, provides a clear definition of a specific word. It often includes the word's origin, and sometimes it's accompanied by a humorous drawing that serves to illustrate both the word's meaning and its usage.
The book also contains a few particular and very funny sections that deal with groups of related words: anatomical terms, names of illnesses, words that begin with the letter "x," and words that end in "logy," among others.
Another hilarious section is "How to Create Your Own Weird and Wonderful Words," intended as a practical guide to help you coin your own unusual vocabulary by using Greek and Latin roots and loose linguistic rules to insure the most legitimate sounding spellings and pronunciation.
As a bonus, especially for those of us interested in doing some further reading, the author also supplies a list of web sites that feature the history and curiosities of the English language, and a list of Oxford dictionaries and reference books.
The only thing missing from this volume is a pronunciation guide, otherwise it is the perfect way to discover, by either direct consultation or casual browsing, the unusual words like ascesis, passiuncle and illywhacker, that decorate our language.
This book is a must-buy for word enthusiasts or trivia lovers alike.
--Reviewed by M. E. Volmar
My only complaint is that there is no pronunciation included with each entry. This is a relatively small issue, and the only thing keeping the book from a 5-star rating.
One caveat: there are some racy entries, not enough to spur sales, but enough to give the book an X rating in some households and a PG-13 in many. Too bad, as the book would otherwise be an excellent inspiration for many a young wordsmith. Perhaps the compiler can be persuaded to gather a similar collection of words, like "googol", of interest to children and adults alike. If only this collection had been just a shade more verecund!
I'll let you buy the book if you want to know the precise meanings of logodaedaly and verecund.
This book is a handy reference for those who get a kick out of wordplay and for those who want to add some spice to their converation and/or writing. You can read it studiously from front to back, peruse it in a random fashion, or do what I did: seek out each Roz Chast illustration to further excite your curiosity about its contents. Roz Chast, also known for her neurotic and humorous cartoon work in the New Yorker, is a natural choice for accompanying so many absurd and obscure words. Her drawings here and within her own books always manage to squeeze a 'squirk' (a half-suppressed laugh) out of me.
Many of the words featured inside contain a brief backstory, origin, and/or word usage. In between what one might call letter-designated chapters are more juicy bizarrities of 2-page word trivia with such headings as: "Irregular and Incredible Illnesses", "Freakish and Fantastic Fornications", "Exceptional and Extraordinary X-es", etc. At the end of the book are: tips on how to create your own words (should you need help with that); a "Logophile's Bibliography", a short directory of dictionaries: basic, in-depth, and for modern English usage; and a short list of reference books of word knowledge and language builders.
From time to time, I look to this book for amusement and to refresh my memory. I find myself reusing words I had forgotten and picking out other words to learn by association so I can use them in the future. If ordinary conversation and trendy stock phrases get you down, quit 'jiffling' (fidgeting) and make this book a staple in your collection.