Blount (Long Time Leaving
) is a contributing editor to the Atlantic Monthly
, a regular panelist on NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!
quiz show and a usage consultant to the American Heritage Dictionary
. He displays his pleasure in words with his 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”—as he dishes up an alphabetical array of “verbal reverberations,” weasel words and linguistic acrobatics from “aardvark” to “zoology” (“Pronounced zo-ology. Not zoo-ology. Look at the letters.
Count the o
's”). Along the way, he compares dictionaries, slings slang, digs for roots, posts ripostes and dotes on anecdotes. The format is nearly identical to Roy Copperud's still valuable but out-of-print A Dictionary of Usage and Style
(1964). Blount's book is equally instructive and scholarly, but is also injected with a full dose of word play on steroids. Quotes, quips, euphemisms, rhymes and rhythms, literary references (“Lo-lee-ta”) and puns: “The lowest form of wit, it used to be said, but that was before Ann Coulter.” Throughout, the usage advice is sage and also fun, since the writer's own wild wit, while bent and Blount, is razor sharp. (Oct. 21)