This reference work on the history, origin, and current meaning of common words and phrases is organized from A to Z with short, definition-style entries. Approximately 3500 new entries have been added since the 2000 edition, bringing the total up to 12,500. Encompassing a wide range of people, places, and activities, the words and phrases included range from "the American dream," "Kodak," and "tadpole" to "Let's roll!"-the phrase made famous by Todd Beamer on 9/11. Each entry provides details on the etymological origin of a word or a phrase, retells stories about where it may first have been spoken, and explains its evolution over time. Hendrickson, who has authored a number of books for the publisher, rightly points out in the preface that this work is subjective, as much of its content is speculative or based on his opinion. While this makes the book more interesting, it also makes it less like a reference source, which should provide concrete facts. In addition, the author may have chosen to exclude appropriate words/phrases missing because he did not find their histories sufficiently dramatic. Similar to books like Why Do We Say It and any of the numerous dictionaries of word origins, this work will be most appreciated by historians, researchers, and crossword puzzle enthusiasts and is appropriate for all types of libraries.-Jaime Anderson, Cty. of Henrico P.L., VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Gr 9 Up—This volume features more than 15,000 quirky words and expressions (2500 of them added since the 2004 edition) from the English/American vernacular. The text, arranged alphabetically, covers a broad range of slang terms, acronyms, coined phrases, literary references, and other dialectical gems. Written in an often-humorous tone, the brief entries consist of etymology and examples of usage culled from sources such as Shakespearean plays, films, or famous declarations. Terms range from classical nicknames (Heraclitus's "The Weeping Philosopher") to pop-culture references (the Seinfeld-ism "man hands"). Foreign expressions such as the British-born "do the needful" and the timely Iraqi "I throw a shoe at you!" are explained. Cross-references are provided, and the index includes listings of phrases and the subjects who uttered them. As the preface states, "No word or phrase has been eliminated because it might offend someone's sensibilities." Hendrickson admits that some origins presented are mere theories. Moreover, the lack of a pronunciation guide and the volume's anecdotal approach undermine its academic value. Still, the author provides an entertaining, informative look at the diversity of influences on the English language. Readers will find plenty to pique their interest in this strong secondary source.—Christina Connolly, Clark University, Worcester, MA
...provides a winner to any who want a comprehensive coverage more in-depth than most casual lay treatments.
A feast for phrase detectives...that will enliven debates and illuminate issues.
The New York Times Magazine
Praise for the hardcover edition: "...language lovers will romp among its pages with as much excitement as a cat rolling in catnip."
Rettig on Reference