Lively, informative and thoroughly beguiling.

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THE WORD ON WORDS

THE PLAY OF LANGUAGE

The English language gets pulled up by its roots for purposes of entertainment, enlightenment and vocabulary building in this sprightly linguistic romp.

The author, an English professor, introduces readers to some of the knottier words in the language through an approach that mixes analysis, history and lots of engaging anecdotes. His method is to seize on dusty old lexical roots, usually from Latin but also from Greek, Old English, Norse and French, and follow their branchings through the modern English words derived from them, with plenty of lore and intriguing digressions thrown in to make the pedagogy go down easy. He traces the Latin verb spectare (to watch), for example, through its many incarnations, from spectacle to expectant, while tossing in allusions to Shakespeare and Byron and an aside on the evolution of false eyes as defensive camouflage in the animal kingdom. German takes a meandering path through the lexicon, always happy to wander off on oddball excursions to, say, palindromes (“senile felines”), spoonerisms (after Rev. Spooner, who reminded one bridegroom that it’s “kisstomary to cuss the bride”), bizarre phobias (arachibutyrophobia, he says, is the fear of sticky peanut butter), lyrically named bird collectives (exaltations of larks, wisps of snipe and parliaments of owls), unsafe anagrams (rearrange mother-in-law and you get “woman Hitler”) and miscellaneous life lessons (“[n]ever use a poly-syllabic Latin word where a one-syllable Anglo-Saxon word will do”). Along the way, German defines over 1,500 big, troublesome words and reinforces reader retention with engaging exercises, including crossword puzzles and fill-in-the-blank quizzes that require one to insert the words aardvark, blasphemy, cremains, cyborg and eunuch into plausible sentences. It’s a fun read that sparkles with photographs, bright colors and crazy-quilt fonts. But this smorgasbord is still a serious textbook—readers will gain not just a store of factoids, but a sharpened ability to analyze new words and a deeper appreciation for the history and beauty of the language.

Lively, informative and thoroughly beguiling.

Pub Date: March 31, 2011

ISBN: 978-1460999769

Page Count: 128

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2011

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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