Ali G: How many words does you know?
Noam Chomsky: Normally, humans, by maturity, have tens of thousands of them.
Ali G: What is some of 'em?
After forty years of making a living using words in every medium, print or electronic, except greeting cards, Roy Blount Jr. still can’t get over his ABCs. In Alphabet Juice
, he celebrates the juju, the sonic and kinetic energies of letters and their combinations. Blount does not prescribe proper English. The franchise he claims is “over the counter” and concentrates more on questions such as these: Did you know that both mammal
derive from baby talk? Have you noticed how wince
makes you wince?
Three and a half centuries ago, Sir Thomas Blount produced Blount’s Glossographia
, the first dictionary to explore derivations of English words. This Blount’s Glossographia takes that pursuit to other levels. It rejects the standard linguistic notion that the connection between words and their meanings is “arbitrary.” Even the word arbitrary
is shown to be no more arbitrary, at its roots, than go-to guy
. From sources as venerable as the OED
(in which Blount finds an inconsistency, at whisk
) and as fresh as Urbandictionary.com (to which Blount has contributed the number-one definition of “alligator arm”), and especially from the author’s own wide-ranging experience, Alphabet Juice
derives an organic take on language that is unlike, and more fun than, any other.