Saturday, December 30, 2006
‘On Language’ 12/20: Best language books of 2006
5 “The Official Dictionary of Unofficial English: A Crunk Omnibus for Thrillionaires and Bampots for the Ecozoic Age” by Grant Barrett (McGraw-Hill, paperback, 288 pages, $14.95). Barrett is a dictionary editor who watches for new slang words that have staying power. This book catches words such as “bampot” (“fool”) and “sheisty” (“dishonest”) in between their birth and their possible entry into a major dictionary someday.
4 “Far from the Madding Gerund and Other Dispatches From Language Log” by Mark Liberman and Geoffrey Pullum (William, James and Company, paperback, 368 pages, $22). This book, and the Web log it’s based on, is not only a lively and interesting read but also one of the best available glimpses of how linguists think as they listen to the news and search the Web. These essays are characteristically informative, scathing and funny.
3 “Totally Weird and Wonderful Words” by Erin McKean (Oxford University Press, USA, paperback, 304 pages, $14.95). This collection of obscure words is much more than just a “dabbity” (a small ornament or souvenir). For more fun word romps, see the new books “More Word Histories and Mysteries: From Aardvark to Zombie” American Heritage Dictionaries (Houghton Mifflin, 320 pages, $12.95), and Barbara Wallraff’s “Word Fugitives: In Pursuit of Wanted Words” (Collins, 208 pages, $14.95).
2 “Words, Words, Words” by David Crystal (Oxford University Press USA, 224 pages, $25). An engrossing introduction to word study by one of the world’s top linguists. A more comprehensive overview is Heidi Harley’s new book “English Words: A Linguistic Introduction” (Blackwell Publishing Professional, paperback, 320 pages, $29.95).