Today’s top ten theme over at ThatArtsyReaderGirl is a freebie, and it took me a long while to figure out what my theme of choice would be. I finally ended upon this: books I want to read about words and language; or rather books for people who love words and language!
I do love words, and I do love books; so books about words is an obvious choice! I made this list using other such online lists as well as my own list (either because I had seen them around many times or because of the author). So here they are with links to Goodreads and a summary adapted from Goodreads/other sources; no reviews or comments on them from me as yet to read these books. These are all now on my TBR 🙂
Books for People Who Love Words and Language
Authorisms: Words Wrought by Writers by Paul Dickson
Title: Authorisms: Words Wrought by Writers
Author: Paul Dickson
Gifted lexicographer Paul Dickson takes the reader on a journey of stories; stories behind words and phrases that came into the English language courtesy of, well, authors. The book includes Shakespeare, of course and then some more literary knowns; such as Chaucer (a ha), Jane Austen (base ball), Louisa May Alcott (co-ed), Mark Twain (hard-boiled), Kurt Vonnegut (granfalloon), John le Carrè (mole), William Gibson (cyberspace), among many others. (Adapted from Goodreads)
Dictionary Stories: Short Fictions and Other Findings by Jez Burrows
Title: Dictionary Stories: Short Fictions and Other Findings
Author: Jez Burrows
Genre-bending and wildly inventive, Dictionary Stories is a giddy celebration of the originality, flexibility, and beauty of narrative. Love stories, horror stories, noir mysteries, recipes, eulogies, confessions, thrillers—each one a miniature literary remix of unlikely parts hidden in plain sight, created by flipping through the dictionary and knowing where to stop. (As is from Goodreads)
Euphemania: Our Love Affair with Euphemisms by Ralph Keyes
Title: Euphemania: Our Love Affair with Euphemisms
Author: Ralph Keyes
How did die become kick the bucket, underwear become unmentionables, and having an affair become hiking the Appalachian trail? Originally used to avoid blasphemy, honor taboos, and make nice, euphemisms have become embedded in the fabric of our language. This book traces the origins of euphemisms, and is a lively and thought-provoking look at the power of words and our power over them. (adapted from Goodreads)
I Never Knew There Was a Word For It by Adam Jacot de Boinod
Title: I Never Knew There Was a Word For It
Author: Adam Jacot de Boinod
From ‘shotclog’, a Yorkshire term for a companion only tolerated because he is paying for the drinks, to Albanian having 29 words to describe different kinds of eyebrows, the languages of the world are full of amazing, amusing and illuminating words and expressions that will improve absolutely everybody’s quality of life. All they need is this book! (as is from Goodreads)
In the Land of Invented Language by Arika Okrent
Title: In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build a Perfect Language
Author: Arika Okrent
In In The Land of Invented Languages, author Arika Okrent tells the fascinating and highly entertaining history of man’s enduring quest to build a better language. Peopled with charming eccentrics and exasperating megalomaniacs, the land of invented languages is a place where you can recite the Lord’s Prayer in John Wilkins’s Philosophical Language, say your wedding vows in Loglan, and read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in Lojban. (from Goodreads)
The Insomniac’s Dictionary: The Last Word On The Odd Word by Paul Hellweg
Title: The Insomniac’s Dictionary: The Last Word On The Odd Word
Author: Paul Hellweg
This book is a word lover’s dream come true, an ideal bedside companion celebrating some of the most intriguing and entertaining facets of the English language. From clowder to crwth, from geep to greedigut, it’ll stretch your vocabulary and make the hours fly by. Inside you’ll find: 47 words about words…..And much more, including a special section on 8 different types of wordplay…(Adapted from Goodreads)
Mother Tongue: The Story of the English Language by Bill Bryson
Title: Mother Tongue: The Story of the English Language
Author: Bill Bryson
I had to pick this one, of course!
Only Bill Bryson could make a book about the English language so entertaining. He takes readers on a tour of the language; as well as the many curious eccentricities that make it as maddening to learn as it is flexible to use. (adapted from Goodreads)
Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English by John McWhorter
Title: Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English
Author: John McWhorter
A survey of the quirks and quandaries of the English language, focusing on our strange and wonderful grammar. Why do we say “I am reading a catalog” instead of “I read a catalog”? Why do we say “do” at all? Is the way we speak a reflection of our cultural values? Delving into these provocative topics and more, Our Magnificent Bastard Language distills hundreds of years of fascinating lore into one lively history. (from Goodreads)
The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature by Stephen Pinker
Title: The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature
Author: Stephen Pinker
In The Stuff of Thought, Pinker marries two of the subjects he knows best: language and human nature. The result is a fascinating look at how our words explain our nature. What does swearing reveal about our emotions? Why does innuendo disclose something about relationships? …. The Stuff of Thought is a brilliantly crafted and highly readable work that will appeal to fans of readers of everything from The Selfish Gene and Blink to Eats, Shoots & Leaves (from Goodreads)
Words on the Move: Why English Won’t—and Can’t—Sit Still (Like, Literally) by John McWhorter
Title: Words on the Move: Why English Won’t—and Can’t—Sit Still (Like, Literally)
Author: John McWhorter
….Words on the Move opens our eyes to the surprising backstories to the words and expressions we use every day. Did you know that silly once meant “blessed”? Or that ought was the original past tense of owe? Or that the suffix -ly in adverbs is actually a remnant of the word like? And have you ever wondered why some people from New Orleans sound as if they come from Brooklyn? …. (from Goodreads)
And one additional one, because this is a top ten list
Haggard Hawks and Paltry Poltroons: The Origins of English in Ten Words by Paul Anthony Jones
Title: Haggard Hawks and Paltry Poltroons: The Origins of English in Ten Words
Author: Paul Anthony Jones
This book collects together hundreds of the most intriguing, surprising and little known histories and etymologies of a whole host of English words. From ancient place names to unusual languages, and obscure professions to military slang, this is a fascinating treasure trove of linguistic facts (from Goodreads)
Would You Rather
Would you rather have to read aloud every word you read or sing everything you say out loud?
I would pick reading out loud over singing everything given my bathroom singer status!!
And Now, the End of This Post
Dear reader, have you read any of these books? Would you recommend them? Do let me know your thoughts on them. Also, any other similar recommendations?
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15 thoughts on “Ten Books for People Who Love Words and Language”
Wow, I didn’t know books like this existed. I need to get some. http://pmprescott.blogspot.com/2020/07/ttt-072820.html
Euphemania sounds like such a good read.
My TTT .
These books look perfectly aimed to develop children’s lexicons. Which also means ability to express oneself.
What a lovely list. Gonna have to add some of these to my TBR!
Nice list! The only one I’ve heard of before is the Bill Bryson book. I don’t read enough nonfiction to add most of these to my TBR, but I would enjoy dipping into many of them if I came across them! I always have meant to read Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss, but that’s more about punctuation than words.
An awesome list. Thanks for sharing.
An awesome list. Thanks for sharing.
Love this list. Thanks for sharing
What a great post.
What a great list but I’ve never head of anyof them. As for your question, I’d rather read books, I squeak at times when I sing because of vocal cord surgery. LOL
These books would be great to read.
They all looks so good. Thanks for sharing.
Hmm. So many thoughts! First of all, I’d choose singing over reading aloud, because I love to sing. Second – LOL at “hiking the Appalachian trail!” That’s a recent one. And fiddlesticks! There are quite a few of these books that I wish I had known about when my son and I were studying the history of the English language in homeschooling. There are other books that I wish would show up in waiting rooms, instead of boring magazines about sports or news. Loved this post, Vidya!
These all look wonderful! They seem like a perfect book to read – one a month… like a dessert after my other reading. 🙂 Thank you so much for this post! You had me at “books”
I hope you enjoy them all! I’m currently searching for books to read for Nonfiction November, and some of these look promising.