cover image Adventures of a Verbivore

Adventures of a Verbivore

Richard Lederer. Pocket Books, $21 (277pp) ISBN 978-0-671-70941-9

Prolific wordsmith Lederer's latest gathering of essays and columns--some new, some culled from Writer's Digest , Verbatim , etc.--is a word-lover's delight. It includes several personal pieces, like one about his encounter with Black English while teaching in an inner-city Philadelphia school, or one describing his son's career as a poker player, which leads to a discussion of discard , bottom dollar and other terms derived from card playing. Lederer samples the ``oys and joys'' of Yiddish, compiles a lexicon of prep-school slang ( Bag the za for cancel the pizza ) and demystifies Britspeak ( way out means exit ). He tosses off outrageous puns, navigates treacherous shoals of grammar and usage, explores regional U.S. dialects, poses word puzzles, ponders palindromic names and shows how the mass media have become a ``tower of babel'' generating new idioms and catchphrases. (Mar.)