Word Wizard: Super Bloopers, Rich Reflections, and Other Acts of Word Magic
Richard Lederer. St. Martin's Griffin, $14.95 (249pp) ISBN 978-0-312-35171-7
This collection of light-hearted essays pokes, prods and pinches the English language, taunting and protecting it like an older brother might for his weakling sibling. Lederer, a language columnist and author of Anguished English, often demonstrates the point of his essays with the language used to write them (a diatribe against the use of ""fadspeak"" and cliches is composed almost exclusively of phrases from the maligned categories) and asserts that ""if plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery, I am one of the most flattered people alive,"" citing the prevalence of his columns-often sans byline-in chain emails. (Which may explain why some of this material seems stale.) His upbeat tone results in Pollyannaish prose, and some of his essays, such as the interview with the palindrome-spouting camel, are clever but fail to convey a message. There are a number of gems sprinkled throughout this book, and attentive readers will take away interesting language facts, new ideas for their own writing and even an inspired car-trip word game. Essays of note include a history of the English language, why single-syllable words are better than their multi-syllabic counterparts, and a wildly inaccurate portrayal of the history of the world cobbled together entirely from student essays. Though classified as a reference, this book works best as a casual reader for grammar geeks.
Reviewed on: 04/03/2006