Alphabet Juice: The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret Parts, ... With Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory by Roy Blount Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a book about words; the subtitle sums it up very nicely. Roy Blount Jr. is one of my favorite panelists on Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me, so I thought I'd try out one of his books. I liked this book because I really like words. Not just reading them, but saying them and learning about them. If you are not interested in reading this book, I offer three highlights:
tmesis- inserting a word into another word for an intensifying effect. Example from my life: Tyler was trying to come up with a mnemonic (which word is also treated by RBJ) for the first three letters of our new license plate, AFZ. What he came up with - Ari-frickin-zona. RBJ points out that, ironically enough, the word tmesis looks like it should have something stuck in the middle of it, an apostrophe (t'mesis) or some vowels (tamesis).
level- the most even word in the English language. Just look at it.
portmanteau- "a British term for a suitcase that opens out into two halves. Portmanteau words are inspired combinations such as guestimate from guess and estimate." Personally I find this delicious and I can see in my minds eye guess and estimate as the two sides of a suitcase getting closed up into guestimate.
The cons of this book are as follows. 1. It was kind of long for what it was, 364 pages about words. 2. RBJ is sort of a rambly and I often found it hard to follow where he was going. 3. There are all sorts of references to movies that were made 50 years before I was born and actresses and other famous people that I've never heard of, so I didn't get a lot of the jokes, I guess you could call them... puns, humor?
This is the third book I've read that was organized into 26 alphabetical chapters and it blows Reading the OED: One Man One Year 21 730 Pages out of the water, but does nothing to touch The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest To Become The Smartest Person In The World. So, if you're going to read one book like this, read that one. If you are going to read two, read that one, and then this one.
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Saturday, August 22, 2009
I think the measure of how much I like a book could be how much I hide from my children in order to read it. And, if I have too many more days like yesterday, CPS might come and take my children away.
Flavia de Luce is 11 and when she finds a body in the cucumber patch, she's determined to solve the mystery of who he is and what he's doing there.
The writing is very good, and it's a lot like Harry Potter in that it's technically for children or young adults, but it makes no attempt to dumb anything down (I kept a list of words I had to look up, and it numbered well over 30); except one time. The word was "hesternal." I attempted to look it up but it wasn't in the dictionary. As I kept reading, Flavia says something like, "I remembered that hesternal means 'pertaining to yesterday.'"
You know a book is good when you want to start right over on page one as soon as you finish to pick up everything you missed the first time around.
The only thing I found unrealistic was Flavia's age. After being put in primary, I've met a few 11-year olds, and there is no way even the most sophisticated of them could walk/talk/think/act like Flavia. Oh well.