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Alphabet Juice: The Energies, Gists, and…

Alphabet Juice: The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and… (2008)

by Roy Blount Jr.

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This author is a funny and clever word-smith. I love the way his mind works! ( )
  anitatally | Jan 25, 2015 |
Read by the author. Very funny, might be good to read in print as well. So much packed in. Great to hear Roy Blount read. ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
Wonderful fun! ( )
  amaraduende | Mar 30, 2013 |
This book is scholarly and well researched by a master wordsmith and a devoted word lover, but it sometimes becomes too much in one stretch. Often quoteable. ( )
  herbcat | Nov 19, 2012 |
Roy Blount , Jr. goes through the alphabet letter by letter, talking about whatever words and phrases happen to catch his attention. He delves into etymologies, comments on usage, shares snippets of writing (his own and others') that he particularly likes or dislikes, makes jokes, and talks a great deal about the sounds of words and his appreciation for the ones that sound somehow appropriate for their meanings or connotations.

I was tremendously enthusiastic about this book at first. I mean, look at the subtitle: "The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret Parts, Tinctures, Tonics and Essences; With Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory." How can a language lover resist a description like that? "Wow," I was saying to myself by the time I got through the introduction, "here is someone who indeed knows how to squeeze the juice from language! I can practically taste all those wonderful words on my tongue!" But I quickly started to feel rather disappointed. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's all just a little too random. Or it's due to the fact that Blount's approach feels a bit too fanciful to me at some times and a bit too pedantic at others. Or that he often seems to me to be trying a little too hard to be clever and witty. Maybe it's just that his sense of humor and mine don't entirely line up.

It's not that I didn't find any of it enjoyable. It's sometimes quite funny and sometimes genuinely informative, but it just didn't quite deliver on the concentrated linguistic delight it seemed to promise. ( )
1 vote bragan | Jan 10, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
Humorist Roy Blount Jr.'s latest offering may be the most entertaining book you'll never finish. And that's not a knock. It's a nod to Blount's own counsel. "If you read this book the way I would read it and the way I've written it," he suggests in his introduction, "you will wear it out, thumbing back and forth, without ever being sure you've read it all."

"Alphabet Juice" is a sort of circular madcap dictionary. Which is to say, a book about words, compiled alphabetically and with great wit, but according to no other apparent program. Thus it begins with a rambling consideration of the word "a" (and the retelling of a joke about college football players) and ultimately concludes with the word "'zzyzva" (a class of weevils), as well as an invitation to think about the word "aah," which is the book's third entry, found way back on Page 12.
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ELSIE: What's that, Daddy?
FATHER: A cow.

—from a 1906 issue of Punch, quoted by Ernest Weekley as an epigraph to his book An Etymology of Modern English
When we reflect that "sentence" means, literally, "a way of thinking" (Latin: sententia) and that it comes from Latin sentire, to feel, we realize that the concepts of sentence and sentence structure are not merely grammatical or merely academic—not negliglbe in any sense. A sentence is both the opportunity and the limit of thought—what we have to think with, and what we have to think in. It is, moreover, a feelable thought, a thought that impresses its sense not just on our understanding, but on our hearing, our sense of rhythm and proportion. It is a pattern of felt sense.

—Wendell Berry, "Standing by Words"
Captain Smith . . . , happening to be taken Prisoner among the Indians, had leave granted him to send a Message to the Governor of the English Fort in James Town, about his Ransome; the Messenger being an Indian, was surpriz'd, when he came to the Governor, . . . for that the Governor could tell him all his Errand before he spoke one Word of it to him, and that he only had given him a piece of Paper: After which, when they let him know that the Paper which he had given the Governor had told him all the Business, then . . . Capt. Smith was a Deity and to be Worshipp'd, for that he had Power to make the Paper Speak.

—Daniel Defoe. An Essay on the Original of Literature, 1726
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According to scholars of linguistics, the relation between a word and its meaning is arbitrary.
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Book description
Roy Blount, Jr., may lament that he's never been cited in a dictionary, but that doesn't mean he doesn't know a lot about words. As he shares that knowledge, Blount, who's on the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel, revels in wordplay and alliteration as he demonstrates his joy at the sounds of language. His Georgia roots still present in his voice, Blount reads his book with a quick drawl as he jumps from topic to topic. It may be in alphabetical order, but there's willful disorder to Blount's collection of news items, anecdotes, explanations of origins of words, and opinions. Listeners are sure to be entertained and could even learn something while having a chuckle. -- J.A.S. audiofile magazine
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374103690, Hardcover)

Ali G: How many words does you know?

Noam Chomsky: Normally, humans, by maturity, have tens of thousands of them.

Ali G: What is some of 'em?

—Da Ali G Show
Did you know that both mammal and matter derive from baby talk? Have you noticed how wince makes you wince? Ever wonder why so many h-words have to do with breath?
Roy Blount Jr. certainly has, and after forty years of making a living using words in every medium, print or electronic, except greeting cards, he still can’t get over his ABCs. In Alphabet Juice, he celebrates the electricity, the juju, the sonic and kinetic energies, of letters and their combinations. Blount does not prescribe proper English. The franchise he claims is “over the counter.”

Three and a half centuries ago, Thomas Blount produced Blount’s Glossographia, the first dictionary to explore derivations of English words. This Blount’s Glossographia takes that pursuit to other levels, from Proto-Indo-European roots to your epiglottis. It rejects the standard linguistic notion that the connection between words and their meanings is “arbitrary.” Even the word arbitrary is shown to be no more arbitrary, at its root, than go-to guy or crackerjack. From sources as venerable as the OED (in which Blount finds an inconsistency, at whisk) and as fresh as Urbandictionary.com (to which Blount has contributed the number-one definition of alligator arm), and especially from the author’s own wide-ranging experience, Alphabet Juice derives an organic take on language that is unlike, and more fun than, any other.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:52 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

After 40 years of making a living using words in every medium, print or electronic, Blount still can't get over his ABCs. In this book, he celebrates the juju, the sonic and kinetic energies of letters and their combinations.

» see all 3 descriptions

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