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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 [Format Kindle]

Roy Blount Jr.

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Descriptions du produit

Présentation de l'éditeur

Ali G: How many words does you know?

Noam Chomsky: Normally, humans, by maturity, have tens of thousands of them.

Ali G: What is some of 'em?
--Da Ali G Show

Did you know that both mammal and matter derive from baby talk? Have you noticed how wince makes you wince? Ever wonder why so many h-words have to do with breath?

Roy Blount Jr. certainly has, and after forty years of making a living using words in every medium, print or electronic, except greeting cards, he still can't get over his ABCs. In Alphabet Juice, he celebrates the electricity, the juju, the sonic and kinetic energies, of letters and their combinations. Blount does not prescribe proper English. The franchise he claims is "over the counter."

Three and a half centuries ago, Thomas Blount produced Blount's Glossographia, the first dictionary to explore derivations of English words. This Blount's Glossographia takes that pursuit to other levels, from Proto-Indo-European roots to your epiglottis. It rejects the standard linguistic notion that the connection between words and their meanings is "arbitrary." Even the word arbitrary is shown to be no more arbitrary, at its root, than go-to guy or crackerjack. From sources as venerable as the OED (in which Blount finds an inconsistency, at whisk) and as fresh as (to which Blount has contributed the number-one definition of "alligator arm"), and especially from the author's own wide-ranging experience, Alphabet Juice derives an organic take on language that is unlike, and more fun than, any other.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 856 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 377 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : B009LI11S2
  • Editeur : Sarah Crichton Books (29 septembre 2009)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B003C2SPGY
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
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  • Word Wise: Non activé
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°646.703 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 3.8 étoiles sur 5  34 commentaires
60 internautes sur 62 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Engaging, entertaining, and even educational 5 novembre 2008
Par R. M. Peterson - Publié sur
ALPHABET JUICE is a potpourri of comments on words and the English language, arranged in alphabetically-ordered entries and presented with Blount's characteristic good humor. It is somewhat akin to books on the proper use of words and language, but it should not be pigeon-holed as simply a user's guide. While it does contain a fair measure of advice and commentary on usage (Blount is not particularly uptight, but he does have a prescriptive bent), it also has generous doses of etymology, word play, jokes, and personal experiences and anecdotes. It appears likely that Blount has been collecting material for this book over many years of his career as a writer and somewhat populist man-of-letters.

Blount does push one particular thesis in the book. Contrary to those scholars who hold that the relationship between a word and its meaning is arbitrary, Blount insists that the sound of many words "somehow sensuously evoke[s] the essence of the word." To characterize this quality, he coins the word "sonicky." A few miscellaneous examples (out of hundreds) of sonicky words from the book: "crunch," "gallop," "grunt," "mum," and "squelch." Blount: "If linguisticians can't hear any correspondence between sound and sense in those words, they aren't listening. Even when words aren't coined with sound and sense conjunctively in mind, the words that sound most like what they mean have a survival advantage." And throughout the book, Blount marshals plenty of evidence for this thesis.

But please don't get the idea that ALPHABET JUICE is some sort of high-brow, academic tome. To fully appreciate it, one certainly needs to be generally literate and to care about words and language, but one does not need to hold a graduate degree in English or in linguistics. Indeed, ALPHABET JUICE may put off many who do hold degrees in those fields.

To give you a better idea of the wide and eclectic range of the book, here are several of my favorite entries or discussions: Bushisms and Berraisms; book blurbs; "hopefully" (Blount convinces me that the common usage of "hopefully" as a sentence-modifying adverb is unacceptable, even execrable); French movies from the Fifties starring Brigitte Bardot; "nosism" (the delivering of one's opinions in the royal or editorial or corporate "we"); "what-if history"; and Wilt Chamberlain. There also is a modest dose of moralizing, much of it on the mark. For example: "Walt Whitman boasted of his 'barbaric yawp,' and good for him. Now America has got itself backed into the corner of claiming to be defending civilization, of all things. Not our strong suit."

By its very nature, ALPHABET JUICE does not readily lend itself to being read straight through, cover to cover. Because I feel that I should not review any book that I have not read in its entirety, I pushed myself to read ALPHABET JUICE cover to cover, though it took me two weeks of off-and-on reading. I sensed that the quality of the book began to decline a tad around the letter "Q", although that impression may well have been due in part to a certain measure of tedium. On the other hand, much that is of interest would be missed if one read only selected entries more or less at random. The best approach might be to read a letter a day. However it is read, to a literate reader ALPHABET JUICE should prove to be moderately engaging, entertaining, and educational.
14 internautes sur 14 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Sweeten l'eau 23 novembre 2008
Par Jon Hunt - Publié sur
Juice is apt as this book squizzles around the mouth. Could Roy Blount Jr. write a sequel? Not fast enough.

"Alphabet Juice" reaches readers on two levels, I would guess. There are the appreciative mavens of wordom (worddom....word-dom?) who will chuckle and te-hee but the hardcore wordies (of the latter am I) revel in this kind of thing. Ya gotta give Blount credit when, regarding bow-wow, he can't imagine a dog forming a "b". And the last entry on "hip", referring to the guy who had a double hip operation, is one of his best.

Much of the reader's particular interest in this book might be found in how Blount exposes words knowing we may see them differently. I loved "wrought". He dwells on the "ugh" of the word while I wondered how many words in our language could add a letter to both the beginning and the end of "rough" and still come up with a word. The author is a good teacher in that he reminds us of jots and tittles but also adds "clitic" without fear of an "r"-rating.

This is a book to be savored. The narrative sometimes wanders but keep your eyes peeled for the moments when he is spot-on. This is the best book on language to come out in years and I highly recommend it.
7 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Enthusiasm from a Word Fan 11 décembre 2008
Par Rob Hardy - Publié sur
People usually don't regard reference books as very much fun. Useful, sure, but as Mark Twain said when he looked up the dictionary's definition of an inflammation he suffered, "The dictionary says a carbuncle is a kind of jewel. Humor is out of place in a dictionary." Twain, though, didn't know Roy Blount Jr., but I think even he would have appreciated the fun in Blount's _Alphabet Juice: The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret Parts, Tinctures, Tonics and Essences; With Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory_ (Sarah Crichton Books). It's not really a dictionary, but it partially is, with definitions and comments on plenty of words Blount likes and some he does not; and it is in alphabetical order. It's long on etymology, too, but it also emphasizes the feel of words as they are formed by our organs of diction, and it has plenty of funny stories, puns, hilarious doggerel, history, social commentary, and movie recommendations. Blount obviously loves words (and it's a good thing, too, since there is a long list of books opposite the title page headed "Also by Roy Blount Jr.") and his enthusiasm is catching. Your reviewer had to start with the A words and read through the Zs, but this is not easy, because most of the words here have references to other words here, and only by a zig-zag course was the end achieved.

Take, for instance, _zigzag_, which Blount finds is from the French _ziczac_ and German _zickzack_. "I have to say, ours is better. Those _ck_ or hard _c_ sounds are hitches that hold too long; our _g_ takes just long enough to evoke a change in direction that's marked but quick." This is a theme that Blount takes throughout this book, the way some words can feel right, and advises that there ought to be a word that applies to terms like _zigzag_ which "are kinesthetically evocative of, or appropriate to, their meaning, without necessarily involving imitative noise." He proposes _sonicky_, and of course you may find it in the S section. You get the idea that he tastes the voicing of his words the way other people might taste wine, enjoying the play of tongue, teeth, and palate. "The word _nausea_ comes from the Latin for "seasickness," which came from the Greek for "ship" [as did _nautical_] - but even if it didn't have that pedigree, it would _sound_ right." There are many lovely and surprising etymologies here. _Lava_ was originally a word of dialect from Naples, and it meant a deluge of rain. Then Vesuvius sent out a deluge of molten rock, and the word took on a meaning specifically for that. Blount's eagerness to dispense information is a delight. Under "Great one-word sentences," he reminds us that "... the actual last line of _The Maltese Falcon_, which is not, as most people believe, Bogart's "This is the stuff that dreams are made on," but Ward Bond's response: "Huh?"

This is an amiable book by a funny and thoughtful man who obviously loves language, and wants us to use it expressively. Of course Blount comes down on the pedant's side to advise against how we almost always use _hopefully_ wrong, or how we must not modify _unique_, or how there should be no such word as _thusly_, which he says was first used by humorists. ("So why don't we all go around with fake arrows through our heads? Why don't we all carry rubber chickens? I believe we may say categorically that words first used by humorists are to be avoided, especially by other humorists, but also by everyone else.") This is not, however, a book of proscription, but of encouragement and delight. Writing, he tells us, "needs to be quick, so it's readable at first glance and also worth lingering over." His book is full of just that sort of writing.
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 An Adventure 4 janvier 2010
L'évaluation d'un enfant - Publié sur
This is the ultimate choose-your-own-adventure book for anybody who loves words, Roy Blount Jr., or both. In the discussion of each word, he often has bolded words that lead you to another word in the book, and in this manner I have skipped from word to word, drawing connections I would not have on my own, and often the insight from a word three words down the chain would inform my knowledge of the original word that started me off.

This is a book that I can sit down and read for five minutes or three hours because of how it is set up, and every entry has a life of its own.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves to read, but also to anyone who loves to talk, because quite often the sounds of words are discussed, which I think is part of what makes this book stand out from others like it.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 alphabet cornucopia 14 février 2010
Par L. Pearl - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
I must have at least a half dozen books on language, with titles like The Word Museum, Words and Phrases Origins, Word Play and Words at Play. But somehow I've never quite had the urge to dig into them. Then I saw a thumbnail review of Alphabet Juice in the NY Times book review. Something in the review (or perhaps the name of the book) grabbed me. Jotting down examples I could share with my book group I came up with 14 separate right-on comments. The first one, in the Introduction, before tackling each letter of the alphabet, was this:"I do hope you realize that every time you use disinterested to mean uninterested an angel dies..." and then there was the Kinky Friedman quote:"Never try to climb a fence leaning toward you or kiss a woman leaning away from you."

As others have pointed out this is not a book to be read over a weekend. However, I found it perfect for my several weekly rides on Metro, Washington's subway. If you love words and take this in small doses I'm sure you'll find at least as many favorite quotes and references as I did.
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