Book Review: Word Drops

Word Drops: A Sprinkling Of Linguistic Curiosities, by Paul Anthony Jones

This is a good example of the sort of book that can come easily from the twitter age, and that is a collection of very short texts with some explanation in paragraph form. This is the sort of book that could very easily be assembled from shorter writings, and while that certainly makes the job of collecting a book out of such materials–and as a writer who frequently writes in fairly short packages, I know how easy it is to make a book out of such things–there are occasionally issues where the author repeats himself from one post to another. As this is something I know I am aware of as being an issue in general when one compiles such matters, it is not a big problem, given that most people probably do not read a book like this in one sitting the way I do anyway. If you like linguistic curiosities, and I must admit that I do, this book certainly has a lot to offer, and it encouraged me to look up the twitter feed that the author has and to check it out and maybe even follow it. I consider that a success overall as far as a book is concerned, if it inspires me to look up or read something else.

The organization of this book is a bit difficult to determine. There are no real chapters in the book, which is about two hundred pages long. Rather, the book flits from post to post with very short discussions of odd but generally entertaining linguistic matters, many of which are related from one point to another but where the overall organization is only very loosely connected. So it is, for example, to take a page at random, that we discuss golf and its origins, while then looking at the acronym OMG and LOL (and its french equivalent, dead with laughing, or MDR), after which the author comments on a Victorian slang word for someone who laughed or smiled constantly, a gigglemug, and then a gazingstock as someone who is stared at by everyone else. The whole book consists of this sort of very loose and allusive connections that are tied together mainly by the author’s interest in linguistic curiosities and presumably the suggestions of his readers who share the same sort of interest and a love in general of the strange origins of familiar words and expressions or the worthiness of obscure words to be used once again.

One wonders, upon reading this particular book, whether the author will find himself desiring to be more ambitious in later volumes. A book like this shows considerable interest in slang and the history of words and their origins and how they have changed in usage and meaning over time. While there are certainly many people with professional interests in linguistics who enjoy writing about such subjects, it is also true that there are a great many people who read such books, enough to support further efforts along these lines if the author had any interest in doing so. Whether or not that is the case, this book is certainly an interesting one for those who have a sense of wit when it comes to language and appreciate small dribbles of information to drop over a dinner conversation to show oneself as an erudite scholar of language, and that sort of appeal is enough to make this book one I would recommend to those friends who have particularly Nathanish tastes in obscure words or obscure histories of familiar words and expressions, including issues of morse code, acronyms, and the relationship between language and law.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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