Cover image for Verbatim : from the bawdy to the sublime, the best writing on language for word lovers, grammar mavens, and armchair linguists
Verbatim : from the bawdy to the sublime, the best writing on language for word lovers, grammar mavens, and armchair linguists
McKean, Erin.
First edition.
Publication Information:
San Diego : Harcourt, [2001]

Physical Description:
xvi, 353 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm
General Note:
"A Harvest original."
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
P107 .V47 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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From the bawdy to the sublime, the best writing on language for word lovers, grammar mavens, and armchair linguists. A brilliant, witty, and engaging compendium on the uses and abuses of the English language.

With bestselling narratives such as The Professor and the Madman to edicts by popular grammar mavens including Pat O'Conner and Barbara Wallraff,
it is clear readers outside of academia are becoming more and more intrigued with language. Founded by legendary lexicographer Lawrence Urdang, for thirty years Verbatim has published amusing and intriguing articles on the English language and the idea of language in general. Here, for the first time, is a collection of Verbatim's greatest hits and wondrous discoveries on concept, usage, jargon, wordplay, linguistics, blunders, malapropisms, and more.

With contributors such as Richard Lederer, Jesse Sheidlower, and Joe Queenan, lexicography heavyweights like Frederick Cassidy and William Kunstler, Verbatim is a smart and sassy collection for anyone seeking the highly scholarly or the completely frivolous. From the uses of language in the Bible to the components of a British soccer chant, this astounding collection is sure to offer something for every language enthusiast and word lover to enjoy.

Author Notes

Erin McKean is the editor of Verbatim: A Language Quarterly and senior editor, U.S. Dictionaries, for Oxford University Press. McKean wanted to be a lexicographer since she was eight years old after reading a newspaper story about the production of the second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. She attended the University of Chicago, where she completed a B.A. and an M.A. in linguistics in four years. She lives in Chicago.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The language quarterly Verbatim is no ordinary work--it's not weighted down with impenetrable linguistic jargon, and it's not a Sunday-supplement rant against bad grammar. McKean's collection of articles from the quarterly likewise rises above the ordinary. The contributors, selected for their good writing, take us on an informative romp through some of the most intriguing aspects of our "messy, uninhibited, and sprawling" language. We're regaled, for example, with fascinating tales told by etymologists; an account of "slayer slang" (teen TV favorite Buffy the Vampire Slayer coins its own words); world history in the words of American students (the ancient Egyptians were "mummies" who traveled across the "dessert" by "Camelot"); and word games. And we want to know more: How have college dictionaries handled sexual intercourse (and its synonyms, including the f word)? Should French Canadians bemoan the corruption of their beloved language by such expressions as le snack bar when they in turn are gallicizing Quebec English? The answers, the wit, and the surprises are here for language mavens of nearly all stripes. --Philip Herbst

Publisher's Weekly Review

For lovers of the intricacies of language comes an anthology of the best writing from Verbatim: The Language Quarterly, which has been investigating, debating, and dissecting English for almost 30 years. Erin McKean, the magazine's editor since 1997, has collected lively essays on popular linguistics, dictionaries and the men and women who make them, English etymology and usage, and, of course, obscenity. From a consideration of "student bloopers" to a disquisition on the nature of slang, these thoughtful and often humorous offerings provide insight into the sophisticated systems of human communication in language that's appropriately fresh and, thankfully, jargon-free. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

For over 25 years, Verbatim: A Language Quarterly has been publishing short articles on the use and misuse of language. Here, McKean, editor of Verbatim and a dictionary editor for Oxford University Press, compiles 58 articles from the quarterly on subjects ranging from the meanings of the "F word" to variants in Bible translations. In between, various authors discuss other languages (Welsh dictionaries, Quebeois Gallicisms, Spanish variations in South America), word games (puns, spoonerisms), jokes (student bloopers, matching wordplay, Irish bulls), jargon (clown talk, S & M terminology, sports slang), and much, much more. McKean has used the work of well-known linguists and journalists (Laurence Urdang, Richard Lederer, and Gerald Eskenazi), but most of the pieces are by unknowns who submitted interesting language observations. All the articles are well written, but some will be more interesting than others. Recommended for public libraries. Kitty Chen Dean, Nassau Coll., Garden City, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.