cover image Cunning Linguist

Cunning Linguist

Richard Lederer. St. Martin's Griffin, $16.99 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-312-31813-0

Noted linguist Lederer (Anguished English) has a naughty side, which, combined with his unerring archival instincts, makes this collection of wordplays a bawdily noteworthy achievement. As long as one doesn't overdose on more than two chapters at a time (as the author warns one should not), this book repeatedly rewards the open-minded. How about the ""poonerism"" (that's what Lederer dubs a dirty spoonerism, or juxtaposition of sounds within a word or sentence) that defines call girls as""the lays of our dives"" and a bordello as a""toll-cookie house""? Or the list of limericks and the pun-filled""delectable daughter"" jokes? Lederer strives to illuminate the""verbal vivacity of our vocabulary and illustrate one of the most astonishing miracles of language--the ability of two or more meanings to occupy the same space at the same time."" Blending the richness of English with the seemingly endless supply of raunchy word tricks, the author takes pride in providing humorous, but never hurtful verbal wit, all in the name of fun and education. After all,""a dirty mind is a terrible thing to waste.""