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A Word A Day: A Romp through Some of the Most Unusual and Intriguing Words in English

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Overview

Written by the founder of the wildly popular A Word A Day Web site, this collection of unusual, obscure, and exotic English words will delight writers, scholars, crossword puzzlers, and word buffs of every ilk. The words are grouped in intriguing categories that range from "Portmanteaux" to "Words That Make the Spell-Checker Ineffective." each entry includes a concise definition, etymology, and usage example–and many feature fascinating and hilarious commentaries by A Word A Day...

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A Word A Day: A Romp through Some of the Most Unusual and Intriguing Words in English

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Overview

Written by the founder of the wildly popular A Word A Day Web site, this collection of unusual, obscure, and exotic English words will delight writers, scholars, crossword puzzlers, and word buffs of every ilk. The words are grouped in intriguing categories that range from "Portmanteaux" to "Words That Make the Spell-Checker Ineffective." each entry includes a concise definition, etymology, and usage example–and many feature fascinating and hilarious commentaries by A Word A Day subscribers and the authors.

Author Biography: Anu Garg is the founder of wordsmith.org, a.k.a. A Word A Day, which he has maintained since 1994.

Stuti Garg is an entrepreneur and a founder of Namix, a trademark and naming solutions company. Anu and Stuti Garg live in Seattle.

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Editorial Reviews

USA Today
Triggers the kind of passionate reaction that actors, authors and memoirists would die for.
Times Literary Supplement (UK)
Part reference work, part entertainment, English teachers, addicts of Scrabble, solvers of crossword puzzles, and other bibliophages will enjoy this book.
St. Petersburg Times
Only Anu Garg, the founder of Wordsmith.org, can make word facts this much fun.
From the Publisher
* “…Uncommon English words to enrich your vocabulary…”(India Today, 7 July 2003)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781620458020
  • Publisher: Turner Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 10/1/2002
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 222
  • Sales rank: 581,112
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

ANU GARG is the founder of wordsmith.org, a.k.a. A Word A Day, which he has maintained since 1994.

STUTI GARG is an entrepreneur and a founder of Namix, a trademark and naming solutions company. Anu and Stuti Garg live in Seattle.

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Read an Excerpt

A Word A Day

A Romp through Some of the Most Unusual and Intriguing Words in English
By Anu Garg Suti Garg

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-471-23032-4


Chapter One

Animal Words

It's a blessing to have a child at home. As a parent, I strive to answer my daughter Ananya's incessant questions about the moon and earthworms and clouds and trees and bears as truthfully as I can. Our investigations into these seemingly mundane matters often reveal insights that are learning experiences for both of us. But there are times when my thoughts are elsewhere and I simply answer the question "Why?" with, "Because that's how God made them." I didn't know the joke was on me until the evening I found the corner of our living room wall scribbled with bright shades of crayons. When questioned why we had that mural on the wall, she simply replied, "Because that's how God made it."

Well, if we were to ask why a crab moves crabwise or sideways, that'd be a pretty good answer: Because that's how God (or nature, depending on how your beliefs run) made crabs. Because that's how their legs bend. That's how their muscles flex. That's how they've adapted. That's how they survive as a species. And that's how we got a synonym for the word sideways in our dictionary. If we were to look up the term humanwise in a crab's dictionary, chances are it would mean sideways.

Here are a few words derived from animals (the only animal-based products we use aroundhere).

crabwise (KRAB-wyz)

adjective 1. Sideways. 2. In a cautious or roundabout manner. From the sideways movement of crabs. Also see cancrine (chapter 31).

And then in a true action-film manner, the hero began moving crabwise along the wall while scanning the alley for the villain.

testudinate (te-STOOD-in-ayt), also testudinal or testudinarian

adjective 1. Slow-moving, like a turtle. 2. Curved like the carapace (shell) of a turtle; vaulted.

noun A turtle.

From Late Latin testudinatus, from Latin testudo (tortoise).

"I kinda find his slow pace and curved back alluring," the young fashion model fawned about the testudinate geriatric who just happened to be an oil magnate as well.

gadfly (GAD-fly)

noun 1. One who persistently annoys or one who prods into action. 2. Any of the various types of flies that bite livestock.

* * *

Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language. -Ludwig Wittgenstein, philosopher (1889-1951)

From gad (a goad for cattle), from Middle English, from Old Norse gaddr.

The newspaper columnist saw himself as a public gadfly, keeping politicians honest and running critical articles about them when they weren't.

kangaroo court (kang-guh-ROO kort)

noun A mock court set up with disregard to proper procedure to deliver a judgment arrived at in advance.

From the Old West to the Spanish Inquisition to the Salem Witch Trials, kangaroo courts have made their appearances throughout history. While theories abound regarding the origin of this expression, lexicographers haven't found a convincing proof of one or another, and its derivation can be tagged with the succinct "origin unknown." But that doesn't stop us from speculating. Some believe it comes from the animal itself-a funny-looking creature that bounces around without appearing to achieve anything. Then some think it is so named because it jumps to conclusions. According to one line of thought, the British didn't respect the Australian penal colony enough to give them due process of law, and with that legacy we name it so. Or maybe it is because this setup describes courts whose opinions wander "all over the place"-opinions that change so much from case to case that the court precedent "bounces" like this member of the marsupial family. Others surmise that the term originated from the Gold Rush era involving the trial of some Aussie miners.

* * *

Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary. -Kahlil Gibran, mystic, poet, playwright, and artist (1883-1931)

waspish (WOS-pish)

adjective 1. Like a wasp, in behavior (stinging) or in form (slender build). 2. Easily annoyed; irascible; petulant. 3. Of or pertaining to a WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant).

From wasp, from Middle English waspe, from Old English waesp, from waeps.

When she called him waspish in her most charming voice, the cranky, lean fellow didn't know what attribute of his she found so alluring.

* * *

He is a hard man who is only just, and a sad one who is only wise. -Voltaire, philosopher (1694-1778)

(Continues...)



Excerpted from A Word A Day by Anu Garg Suti Garg Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction.
Animal Words
Latin Terms
Words to Describe People - I
Lesser-Known Counterparts of Everyday Words
Words for Odds and Ends
Reduplicatives
Discover the Theme I
Gender-Specific Nouns
Verbs
Coined Words I
Back-Formations
Portmanteaux
Short Words
Words That Make Spell-Checker Ineffective
Names for Things
Words Formed by Metathesis
Words Not to Put On Your Resume
A Verbal Zoo
Words From Medicine
Semordnilap
Words With Color as Metaphor
Words that Make One Say, "I Didn't Know there was a Word for That!"
Wordpix I
Wordpix II
Wordpix III
Words with Offbeat Pluralizations
Words about Relations
Collective Nouns<
Positive Words
Discover the Theme II
Lesser-Known Synonyms of Everyday Words
Words from Speeches
Words That Contain the Vowels AEIOU
Once and Only Once
Coined Words II
English as a Global Language
Eponyms
Words about Words I
Uncommon Words with Common Suffixes
Words to Describe People II
Ordinal Words
Words for Odds and Ends
Red-Herring Words
Discover the Theme III
Newer Words in the Oxford English Dictionary
War of Words and Words of War
Words for Physical Characteristics
Used to Describe People Figuratively
Words Evolved from Folk Etymologies
Words about Words II
Words Formed Using Combining Forms
Words Formed Using Combining Forms
Words for Body Parts That Are Used Metaphorically
Red-Herring Words Revisited
Words from Nature's Oeuvre
Words about People Who Love Books
Mondegreens and Other Linguistic Faux Pas
Answers to the “Discover the Theme” Chapters
Bibliography
Index of Words
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