Never enough words: how Americans invented expressions as ingenious, ornery, and colorful as themselves
ain explores the interconnections between the American character and history and the evolution of the American language. From the humorous -- the lawyer bird, named for its long bill -- to the sonorous -- whippoorwills and katydids, named for the sounds they make -- he demonstrates how our distinctive American traits have shaped and been echoed in our language, and, in so doing, demonstrates the fact that language is a living thing.
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Never enough words: how Americans invented expressions as ingenious, ornery, and colorful as themselvesUser Review - Book Verdict
McQuain, guest columnist for William Safire's "On Language" column in the New York Times Magazine, surveys "memorable terms" from the "Pathfinder" of the 1840s to the Pathfinder mission to Mars. What he describes as a "systematic explanation" of the historical progress of the American language is divided into three chapters that only partially suggest their content, referring broadly to the person/ spirit, the intellect/mind, and the emotion/heart of Americans and their words. Unfortunately, this narrative format is not user-friendly. The words and their background stories are fascinating, but the book would have benefited enormously from either an index or a different arrangement. Furthermore, the text suffers from the misuse of some words (e.g., "Canadian" goose rather than "Canada" goose) and redundancy (e.g., the "urban legend" featuring alligators in city sewers appears twice within the "tall tales" section). Since the book is well researched, it seems a pity the material isn't better edited and more accessible.--Cathy Sabol, Northern Virginia Community Coll., Herndon
Review: Never Enough Words: How Americans Invented Expressions as Ingenious, Ornery, and Colorful as Themsel vesUser Review - Goodreads
Interesting. Vignettes that weren't really well tied together...