Today's eighteen-year-olds may not know who Mrs. Robinson is, the size of a breadbox, or why going postal refers to a major uproar. Such "retroterms" are words or phrases whose origin lies in our past. I Love It When You Talk Retro discusses these verbal fossils that linger in our national conversation long after the topic they refer to has galloped into the sunset. That could be a person (Charles Ponzi), product (Edsel), radio show (Gang Busters), or ad slogan ("Cha-ching "). How many realize that cooties was World War I slang for lice, or that doofus came from the comic strip Popeye?
Ralph Keyes takes us on an illuminating and engaging tour through what he calls retrotalk. This journey along the highways of history and byways of culture is an invaluable handbook for anyone who's ever wondered about an obscure word or phrase, "I wonder where that came from?" Ralph Keyes's book answers that question. Repeatedly. And is a lot of fun to read.
Gleaned from antiquated dictionaries, dialect glossaries, studies of folklore, nautical lexicons, historical writings, letters, novels, and miscellaneous sources, Informal English offers a captivating treasure trove of linguistic oddities that will not only entertain but also shed light on America's colloquial past. Among the gems are:
- Surface-coal: cow dung, widely used for fuel in Texas
- Bone-orchard: in the Southwest slang for a cemetery
- Chawswizzled: confounded in Nebraskan idiom. I'll be chawswizzled
- Leather-ears: to Cape Cod inhabitants, a person of slow comprehension
- Puncture lady: a southwestern expression for a woman who prefers to sit on the sidelines at a dance and gossip rather than dance, often puncturing someone's reputation
Whether the entries are unexpected twists on familiar-sounding expressions or based on curious old customs, this wide-ranging assortment of vernacular Americanisms will amaze and amuse even the most hard-boiled curmudgeon.
Lost in Translation brings to life more than fifty words that don't have direct English translations with charming illustrations of their tender, poignant, and humorous definitions. Often these words provide insight into the cultures they come from, such as the Brazilian Portuguese word for running your fingers through a lover's hair, the Italian word for being moved to tears by a story, or the Swedish word for a third cup of coffee. In this clever and beautifully rendered exploration of the subtleties of communication, you'll find new ways to express yourself while getting lost in the artistry of imperfect translation.
It is said to be the most frequently spoken (or typed) word on the planet, more common than an infant's first word ma or the ever-present beverage Coke. It was even the first word spoken on the moon. It is "OK"--the most ubiquitous and invisible of American expressions, one used countless times every day. Yet few of us know the hidden history of OK--how it was coined, what it stood for, and the amazing extent of its influence.Allan Metcalf, a renowned popular writer on language, here traces the evolution of America's most popular word, writing with brevity and wit, and ranging across American history with colorful portraits of the nooks and crannies in which OK survived and prospered. He describes how OK was born as a lame joke in a newspaper article in 1839--used as a supposedly humorous abbreviation for "oll korrect" (ie, "all correct")--but should have died a quick death, as most clever coinages do. But OK was swept along in a nineteenth-century fad for abbreviations, was appropriated by a presidential campaign (one of the candidates being called "Old Kinderhook"), and finally was picked up by operators of the telegraph. Over the next century and a half, it established a firm toehold in the American lexicon, and eventually became embedded in pop culture, from the "I'm OK, You're OK" of 1970's transactional analysis, to Ned Flanders' absurd "Okeley Dokeley " Indeed, OK became emblematic of a uniquely American attitude, and is one of our most successful global exports. "An appealing and informative history of OK."
--Washington Post Book World "After reading Metcalf's book, it's easy to accept his claim that OK is 'America's greatest word.'"
--Erin McKean, Boston Globe "Entertaininga treat for logophiles."
--Kirkus Reviews "Metcalf makes you acutely aware of how ubiquitous and vital the word has become."
--Jeremy McCarter, Newsweek
Do you cringe when a talking head pronounces "niche" as NITCH? Do you get bent out of shape when your teenager begins a sentence with "and"? Do you think British spellings are more "civilised" than the American versions? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you're myth-informed.In Origins of the Specious, word mavens Patricia T. O'Conner and Stewart Kellerman reveal why some of grammar's best-known "rules" aren't--and never were--rules at all. This playfully witty, rigorously researched book sets the record straight about bogus word origins, politically correct fictions, phony fran ais, fake acronyms, and more. Here are some shockers: "They" was once commonly used for both singular and plural, much the way "you" is today. And an eighteenth-century female grammarian, of all people, is largely responsible for the all-purpose "he." From the Queen's English to street slang, this eye-opening romp will be the toast of grammarphiles and the salvation of grammarphobes. Take our word for it.
An obsessive word loveras account of reading the Oxford English Dictionary cover to cover. aIam reading the OED so you donat have to. If you are interested in vocabulary that is both spectacularly useful and beautifully useless, read on...a So reports Ammon Shea, the tireless, word-obsessed, and more than slightly masochistic author of Reading the OED, The word loveras Mount Everest, the OED has enthralled logophiles since its initial publication 80 years ago. Weighing in at 137 pounds, it is the dictionary to end all dictionaries. In 26 chapters filled with sharp wit, sheer delight, and a documentarianas keen eye, Shea shares his year inside the OED, delivering a hair-pulling, eye-crossing account of reading every word, and revealing the most obscure, hilarious, and wonderful gems he discovers along the way.
This guide to idioms provides the student with an "ace up your sleeve " Idioms bring color to our speech every day. Included are idioms from Native American and African American speech as well as the Bible, Aesop, and Shakespeare.