978-0-618-00270-2 / 9780618002702

America in So Many Words: Words That Have Shaped America


Publisher:Houghton Mifflin Harcourt



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About the book:

Did you know that the word "juke" (as in "jukebox") comes from the West African language Wolof and means "to make mischief"? Or that the slang expression "bogus" reaches as far back as 1797, when it signified a counterfeit coin? Like the country from which it emerged, American English is a vital multicultural stew of sources and influences. Word by word and year by year, America in So Many Words traces the origins and historical context of America's distinctive additions to the English language, from "canoe" (1555) all the way to "Ebonics" (1997). "O.K.," for instance, appeared in 1838 as part of a Boston fad for abbreviations--in this case, the humorously misspelled "all correct." "Rock and roll," America's equally famous contribution to the world lexicon, was first popularized in 1951 by disc jockey Alan Freed--his way to sidestep a prohibition against playing African American music for white audiences. A fascinating reference you'll read from cover to cover, America in So Many Words beautifully illustrates the ways in which history and vocabulary converge.

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