9780618381968 / 0618381961

The Disheveled Dictionary: A Curious Caper Through Our Sumptuous Lexicon


Publisher:Mariner Books



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About the book:

Pretty little novelty vocabulary books often provide unimaginative, unpoetic definitions for strange and beautiful words that one could never imagine actually using in a sentence. Karen Elizabeth Gordon's Disheveled Dictionary is quite the opposite. Gordon offers up usable if somewhat underused words (such as "amplitude," "crepuscular," "maudlin," and "recidivistic"), many of which we're not quite sure we know the exact meaning, illustrating them in the wildly creative fashion that she has perfected in her grammar texts (The Deluxe Transitive Vampire, The New Well-Tempered Sentence, and Torn Wings and Faux Pas). "The more ample one's lexicon," writes Gordon (as her alter ego "Yolanta") in the book's preface, "the more supple one's thought, the more daring, charged, engaged." "Jonquil Mapp," another of Gordon's stable of crafty characters, adds that "What's most exciting ... is not where a word has been but where it's going, what you will make of it."

This book is best described by example, so here is Gordon's illustrative use of that excessive pride or self-confidence we call "hubris": " Adipose Rex, a modern drama with ancient Greek overtones, is about a king whose hubris vis-a-vis his heart and his tragic proclivity for tiropitas, pastitsio, and baklava bring on his comeuppance coronary." --Jane Steinberg

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