Dog Eared

Books we love

Getting Excited About Words

We asked Bob Greenman, the author and educator we interview in this week's "Teachers at Work" feature, to recommend books about vocabulary. Here are his picks:

America in So Many Words, by Allan A. Metcalf and David K. Barnhart. "Year by year, the stories behind significant American words like cookie (1703), squatter (1788), hobo (1847), bathtub (1870), muckraker (1906), jukebox (1939), duh ( 1963) and newbie (1993)."

Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, by Ebenezer Cobham Brewer. "Continuously updated since its first edition in 1870, this is a treasury of people, names, places, ideas, customs, beliefs, words and expressions encountered in literature, popular culture, mythology, legend, and the Old and New Testaments."

The Devil's Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce. "Caustic, sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek, and ever-witty definitions by a writer better known for his bizarre short stories. Examples: 'Corporation. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.' 'Friendless. Having no favors to bestow. Destitute of fortune. Addicted to utterance of truth and common sense.'

Noah Webster: The Life and Times of an American Patriot, by Harlow Giles. "Not just the lexicographer who singlehandedly created the first American dictionary, Webster was a founder of the American education system, a social reformer, and a friend of and influence on many of America's founding fathers, including Washington' Adams and Franklin. In this exciting biography we meet Webster as college student, patriot, lawyer, newspaper editor, abolitionist, son, husband, father and grandfather. It's terrific."

Twentieth Century Words, by John Ayto. "A fascinating decade-by-decade selection of words and expressions that entered the English language in the 20th century, each with its year of entrance, definition and citations from that year and later."

Choose the Right Word, by S. I. Hayakawa. "An essential guide to the differences between synonyms."

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