Books by Marvin Terban

Released: March 1, 1996

Explanations of the meaning and derivation (where known) of over 600 common expressions (``chew the fat,'' ``mad as a wet hen,'' ``straighten up and fly right,'' etc.). Terban (Funny You Should Ask, 1992, etc.) traces many back to Latin and Greek sayings, while others come from more obscure sources. Each entry opens with the idiom in bold type, a sentence in which it is used in correct context, the current meaning of the phrase, and its more literal origins. This fascinating work is not without its frustrations; too often the author attributes a phrase to a writer without identifying him or her, or leaves out the title of the work in which it is found. The actual usage is rarely quoted. Cross references include page numbers only some of the time; famous uses of a particular expression are cited inconsistently. An extensive key word index is very helpful; the alphabetical one is nearly useless, since the entries are already arranged alphabetically. Nonetheless, this unusual work will intrigue children and may whet their appetites for other explorations of language. (b&w illustrations, indexes) (Nonfiction. 8+) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 19, 1992

The author of 11 lively books that bring a delightfully light touch to such subjects as idioms, homographs, and wordplay provides a joke book-cum-manual subtitled How to Make Up Jokes and Riddles with Wordplay. In four chapters, Terban demonstrates the process with homonyms, near-homonyms (a ``pirate ship'' is a ``thug boat''), homographs, and idioms. The generously abundant jokes not only serve as examples, but—by offering several comic uses for a single sound that lends itself to punning (foul/fowl), pointing out how jokes can be devised by beginning with a punch line—Terban also gets readers thinking about the mechanics of language and the meanings of words in general as well as about a variety of ways to play with sound and sense. Even for those who find the exercises more difficult than the author makes them sound, the jokes themselves are invitingly funny; Terban concludes by mentioning their sources, old and new. O'Brien's comical line drawings extend the fun, and occasionally the meaning. Brief bibliography. (Nonfiction. 8-12) Read full book review >