Now's the time for a good ol' summer tome
“Summer's lease hath all too short a date,” sighed Shakespeare. So, before the dog days arrive, make a date with one of these new books about language.
“You're My Dawg: A Lexicon of Dog Terms for People” written by Donald Friedman and illustrated by J. C. Suaras (Welcome Books, $12.95) charmingly wags its “tales”: The “dog days” are named for the Dog Star (Sirius), which rises with the sun in midsummer; small sharks are called “dogfish” because they hunt in packs; a “hush puppy” was originally a cornmeal mix fed as scrap food to dogs to quiet them.
If “fuss budgets” and “fuddy duddies” cause you “botheration,” you'll love “Let's Bring Back: The Lost Language Edition — A Collection of Forgotten, Yet Delightful, Words, Phrases, Insults, Idioms and Literary Flourishes From Eras Past” by Lesley Blume (Chronicle Press, $19.95). My favorites include “conflabberation” (hullabaloo), “glump” (to sulk), “devil's teeth” (dice), “fizzing” (first-rate), rackabones (skinny person), “rammish” (stinky), “kicksy-wicksy” (restless) and “naughty pack” (children).
In “Yes, I Could Care Less: How to Be a Language Snob Without Being a Jerk” (St. Martin's Griffin, $14.99), the devilish and delightful Bill Walsh treats controversial usages as if they were a kicksy-wicksy naughty pack.
Sometimes you rein in the kids (avoid “try and”); sometimes you set reasonable boundaries (use “I could care less” only in speech); and sometimes you let 'em run wild (feel free to use “since” to mean “because”). Explains Walsh, “I'm half churlish on my mother's side.”
In “Good Prose: The Art of Non-fiction” (Random House, $26), two good pros — Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Tracy Kidder and veteran editor Richard Todd — impart sage advice like master carpenters describing a fine cabinet: “The good and honest memoir is a record of learning.” “Describe⅜not the wart, but how the character covers it when he's nervous.” “(Writing an Essay) is like taking a bite of an apple that is the world.”
Despite a title that's a bit edgy for this family-friendly column, “Holy SH.T”: A Brief History of Swearing” by Melissa Mohr (Oxford, $24.95) provides a lively and intriguing review of profanity and obscenity from ancient Rome to “The Sopranos.” A serious work by a Stanford Ph.D., this book reminds us that swearing has always provided humans with a much-needed outlet for emphatic expression. Egads!
Rob Kyff, a teacher and writer in West Hartford, Conn., invites your language sightings. Send your reports of misuse and abuse, as well as examples of good writing, via email to Wordguy@aol.com or by regular mail to Rob Kyff, Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: Chryst a miserable failure at Pitt
- Ex-Penguins defenseman Niskanen still miffed by coaches’ firings
- Police investigate alleged institutional sexual assault
- Pitt football fights to overcome steppingstone status
- Steelers’ Bell, Chiefs’ Charles elevating running back position in NFL
- Pouliot scores in NHL debut as Penguins tame Panthers
- Pitt players support Rudolph for job
- Jeannette company’s miniature steam engines coveted for decades
- Pittsburgh police break up customer fights over Air Jordan 11 shoes
- Warning about cop-killer came moments too late
- South Fayette football team distributes Steelers tickets to Carlynton, Wilkinsburg