Magazine article Communication World

Words Every Word Lover Should Know-And More

Magazine article Communication World

Words Every Word Lover Should Know-And More

Article excerpt

Calling all word freaks: Courtesy of Bill Brooks, quondam Indianapolis News writer (mid- to late 20th century), we present what is suggested to be the all-time leader in the field of sentences displaying delayed/deferred syntactic gratification. Brooks clipped and shipped the lead from an Associated Press story dated 19 September 1990 that he'd kept in his favorite horrors folder. Here's the third graf, in full:

"She has steadfastly claimed that she does not know where her daughter, who disappeared after a dispute with her husband five years ago, is."

Freshen up your summer reading with a couple of new paperbacks from Houghton Mifflin. Newest in the publisher's 100 Words series is 100 Words Every Word Lover Should Know. The volume skips along from aesthetic to egregious to jeremiad to meretricious to Zeitgeist to zenith. Each entry is identified by part of speech, inflections, order of senses, examples of usage and etymologies.

For example: Humuhumunukunukuapuaa--pronounced just the way it looks--is the noun that identifies the state fish of Hawaii. Oxymoron means a rhetorical figure in which incongruous or contradictory terms are combined, as in deafening silence. Most of us are already familiar with standards jumbo shrimp and military intelligence.

Also new in paperback, Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages rerainds us of the urgency of Canadian author Mark Abley's mission: to preserve disappearing languages. Of the 6,000 languages spoken in the world today, only 600 may survive into the next century. Like animals at risk of extinction, languages can be endangered when there is no room for them to grow or expand. Abley notes this does not affect only the population that speaks the language. "The world risks losing another cultural viewpoint and the opportunity to discover more about one of its shrinking but integral societies," he writes.

Spoken Here reveals some of the particulars of threatened languages:

Mati Ke (northern Australia)--a marri: a kind of cockroach that lives in dead cycad fronds. Me marri: people whose totems are the cockroach and the cycad.

Lokele (eastern Congo)--liala: a garbage dump. …

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