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Roy Blount Jr. Alphabet Juice. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.

Roy Blount Jr. Alphabet Juice. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.

This alphabetically arranged book, which has the subtitle "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," contains 500-plus word and phrase entries that reflect Roy Blount Jr.'s ongoing fascination with the English language. Blount, a member of the American Heritage Dictionary usage panel who has written twenty previous books, covering subjects from the Pittsburgh Steelers to Robert E. Lee to what dogs are thinking, writes both funny and smart.

To wit, Blount's entry on e-mail reads, "Call this hyphen fussy if you will, but you wouldn't write Abomb for A-bomb, or opositive for O-positive, or Xray (which looks like the name of a science fiction villain) or fstop or Bgirl or Bside of a record (not that there is any such thing anymore) or Csection, Fword, Gman, Vchip, or Xfactor." On the abbreviation mic, Blount writes, "We need to preserve as much phonetic fiber in English as we can. That is why we have trafficking not trafficing. I hate to see mike, short for microphone, rendered as mic, which is how it tends to be spelled these days, especially by people who use microphones. Mic, dammit, should be pronounced mick."

In the L-section, Blount says this about language: "I trust that you get your back up, as 1 do (that is to say, I get mine up) when this word is used pejoratively or dismissively. As in 'At the moment the two sides are primarily talking language.' Until you've agreed on the language, you haven't agreed on anything, unless you're in love or something, and even then ... you're going to be surprised." Amen, brother.



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Author:Levinson, Martin H.
Publication:ETC.: A Review of General Semantics
Article Type:Book review
Date:Apr 1, 2009
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