|A Word a Day: A Romp through Some of the Most Unusual and Intriguing Words in English|
|author||Anu Garg with Stuti Garg|
|summary||words, words and more words, broken up by themes into small chapters|
For anyone who finds MBA-speak infiltrating daily life (I'll admit to once telling a friend we could "table the discussion for later"), learning new, cool, real words is a good way to spend a rainy afternoon. Anu Garg runs A.Word.A.Day, the website, where, instead of the morning's daily dose of spam, acolytes can receive daily linguistic edification. (The urge to use big words in a review like this is difficult to suppress.) Now he's taken the best of these words and themes and collected them in a slim little volume good for both casual grazing and sit-down-reading.
What's to LikeGarg has a logical mind, dividing the book into small chapters with clever themes. There are some humdingers of words, but there are also many surprisingly small entries, as in the chapters "Words that Make the Spell-checker Ineffective" (example: specie, meaning "in kind") and "Words Not to Put on Your Resume" (example: distrait, or absentminded). Anyone who wants to get really meta will like the chapters that are words about words (example: verbigeration, the obsessive repetition of meaningless words and phrases). The truth is, it's just fun to learn new words, stretch the brain a little bit, and to find out how certain etymologies came to be. Pixilated (as opposed to pixelated), meaning whimsical or eccentric, came from the word "pixie," for example, while cremains (from the combining of the words cremate and remains) means exactly what you think.
What's to ConsiderLate in the book, Garg introduces the concept of the malapropism ("the humorous misuse of a word by confusing it with a similar-sounding word"), which seems like an important idea in geek culture. Lots of geeks are autodidacts and readers, and we fall into the habit of mispronouncing or slightly misusing big word. (For years I said prejudice as "pre-justiced" because that was how I thought of the meaning.) To be exact in language -- both in pronunciation and in meaning -- is to have a certain kind of power. It may seem a little prissy to worry about it, but communication is one of those things in daily life that really matter, that people use to make a judgement about how smart or interesting a person is. A weblog filled with all "like, you know" kind of commentary is tedious; a witty one gets forwarded to friends.
As corporate-speak becomes more and more intertwined with technology, it's up to all of us to create a discourse community (a concept a friend from Harvard told me about) that makes conversation sparkly and yet exact, even in the middle of a cube farm. But mostly, it's just fun to think about words and how they could be used. Not that it will ever happen, but maybe at the next meeting, during the next inane bizdev presentation, someone will lean over and whisper "Clearly Manager X must have been decerebrated over the holidays, or he would never have perorated like that this afternoon." And we'll all actually know what he's talking about.
SummaryAnu Garg loves words, and the book reflects it. He has a natural curiosity and desire to explain bigger concepts about how language evolves and becomes useful. Playful and humorous in his writing style, he's created a book that other people will want to borrow from you.
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