Word enthusiasts will find trivia and treasure here.


This wonderfully curious and eclectic volume falls somewhere between a quirky dictionary and a romantic sonnet.

Novelist West (The Dry Danube, p. 422, etc.) is irrevocably enamored with etymology, and his “short homage” to some 400 words can be thoroughly enjoyed by reading A to Z—or by simply “dipping” into it, as the author himself recommends. From abacus to zymurqist (the two word histories boil down to “dust to dust,” West points out), the entries range from the complete evolution of a word to merely a quick and surprising note on its modern usage. West truly believes that words are living, organic things with an etymology and a personality, and his passion sets a romantic backdrop for some enigmatic histories. His “choice of words” reveals a romantic and inquisitive personality, where the terminology of sports and cooking, medicine and Macbeth abound. He tells us that “amethyst” means “not drunk,” that a “companion” is one who eats bread with you, and that “orchid” and “avocado” originate from various cultures’ terms for “testicle.” From “poetry” to “placenta,” from “mistletoe” to “marzipan,” West's collection brims with peculiar gems. He quips that “we might say alias is aka aka,” and in another entry he claims that “you do not need this word until you find it.” He also contemplates the origins of curious phrases like “stone the crows,” “kick the bucket,” and “screw the pooch.” To West, joy is epitomized by language—“the silk of our so-called civilization”—and tragedy is exemplified by the dead-end term “etymology unknown,” or EU. Words are a metaphor for his universe and he believes that “we rehearse on words for the mysteries of the cosmos, which, of course may not even have a beginning.”

Word enthusiasts will find trivia and treasure here.

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-15-100466-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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



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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