No man of letters savors the ABC’s, or serves them up, like language-loving humorist Roy Blount Jr. His glossary, from "ad hominy" to "zizz," is hearty, full bodied, and out to please discriminating palates coarse and fine. In 2008, he celebrated the gists, tangs, and energies of letters and their combinations in Alphabet Juice to wide acclaim. Now, Alphabetter Juice. Which is better?
This book is for anyone—novice wordsmith, sensuous reader, or career grammarian—who loves to get physical with words. Digging into how locutions evolve, and work, or fail, Blount draws upon everything from The Tempest to The Wire. He takes us to Iceland, for salmon-watching with a "girl gillie," and to Georgian England, where a distinguished etymologist bites off more of a "giantess" than he can chew. Jimmy Stewart appears, in connection with "kludge" and the bombing of Switzerland. Litigation over "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" leads to a vintage werewolf movie; news of possum-tossing, to "metanarrative."
As Michael Dirda wrote in The Washington Post Book World, "The immensely likeable Blount clearly possesses what was called in the Italian Renaissance 'sprezzatura,' that rare and enviable ability to do even the most difficult things without breaking a sweat." Alphabetter Juice is brimming with sprezzatura. Have a taste.
Read an Excerpt
Read the full excerpt
ELSIE: What’s that, Daddy?
FATHER: A cow.
—from a 1906 issue of Punch, quoted by Ernest Weekley as an epigraph to his book An Etymology of Modern English
When we reflect that “sentence” means, literally, “a way of thinking” (Latin: sententia) and that it comes from the Latin sentire, to feel, we realize that the concepts of sentence and sentence structure are not merely grammatical or merely academic—not negligible in any sense. A sentence is both the opportunity and the limit