What is This Language We Speak?
English, what a strange beast! Besides the homonyms, idioms, spellings that seem to have no relationship to pronunciation, irregular verb conjugations, and a vocabulary borrowed from dozens of other languages, it is an alive and constantly changing thing. If you're a native speaker, you may never have fully appreciated the strangeness and complexity of your language.
2013 by Mark ForsythGet this item
Best-selling author of The Etymologicon, Forsyth goes to the land of lost words and offers up these weirdly wonderful discoveries that are perfect for everyday situations for every hour of the day. Rather than languish in a state of uhtceare, you can jenticulate and plan for a day full of frolicsome fanfreluching!
2017 by Paul Anthony JonesGet this item
An etymologist takes 100 words and shows how their meanings have changed over the centuries—words we would never expect, such as "girl." Jones is both entertaining and informative about social and linguistic influences on the evolution of words.
The Professor and the Madman : A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary1998 by Simon WinchesterGet this item
Of course, if you're interested in etymology you can just sit down and read the OED. But the story behind the creation of the quintessential dictionary is a fascinating one. One of the primary contributors to the definitions of 414,825 words was American Civil War veteran William C. Minor, who was confined to the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. For 17 years, he researched word origins and corresponded with the OED's editor. An appealing work both for history buffs and those interested in the crafting of a dictionary.
May We Borrow Your Language?: How English has Stolen, Purloined, Snaffled, Pilfered, Appropriated and Looted Words from all Four Corners of the World2016 by Philip GoodenGet this item
English is a linguistic mongrel, made up of words borrowed from other tongues. Gooden tells the intriguing stories behind many such words that come from Sanskrit, Algonquin, and Vikings' Old Scandinavian, to name just a few. Calling all word nerds for this one! Available as an e-book on Hoopla.
2016 by John H McWhorterGet this item
People change the way language is used and constructed and always have. McWhorter explores the changes in meaning, grammar, and pronunciation of words, the use of uptalk, and (annoying) habits such as the liberal sprinkling of "like," comparing modern changes to those that have occurred throughout history. In the final chapter, he asserts that writing is static in a way that speech never will be. (Clearly, he does not consider text messages "writing!")
2015 by Seth LererGet this item
If you're of a scholarly bent and curious about the difference between spelling and pronunciation, grammar rules, and regional dialects, check out this book by a Stanford University humanities professor and the man behind the Teaching Company's History of the English Language. Each chapter illuminates a time when a change was made in the way English was spoken or written, revealing what a dynamic language it is.
2015 by Henry BeardGet this item
Humorists Beard and Cerf present a lexicon of neologisms (new words) that spin doctors use to gloss over real meaning. Not only will you learn lots of obfuscating terms, but you may be inspired to invent your own.
1994 by Bill BrysonGet this item
Journalist Bryson, known to many for his clever, anecdotal style, gives an engaging chronological account of the development of American English, anchored in social and historical contexts, from the Pilgrims to modern day. Library Journal especially recommends the discussion of issues surrounding politically correct speech.
2011 by Steven D PriceGet this item
More in the nearly obsolete category, Price's compendium of idioms includes ones that you may have heard your parents or grandparents use. I'm for keeping the whole ball of wax alive. Afterall, what's more fun than saying things like: that's a load of codswallop, fast as greased lightning, and Bob's your uncle?
I Love It When You Talk Retro : Hoochie Coochie, Double Whammy, Drop a Dime, and the Forgotten Origins of American Speech2009 by Ralph KeyesGet this item
A valuable reference of language fossils for the word nerd—and how could I not include it with a bodacious cover like this?