Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Reading the OED by Ammon Shea

What an extraordinarily entertaining book. It is full of wonderful words:

Advesperate (v.) To approach evening.

Balter (v.) To dance clumsily..
It's nice to find a word I can use to explain why I've always hated to dance. I am a balterer. [Me too!]

... some of which are quite funny:

Fard (v.) To paint the face with cosmetics, so as to hide blemishes.
I suspect there is a reason no one ever gets up from the table and says, "Excuse me while I go to the ladies' room and fard." It seems to be very difficult to make a four-letter word that begins with f sound like an activity that is polite to discuss at the dinner table.

Unbepissed (adj.) Not having been urinated on; unwet with urine.
Who ever thought there was an actual need for such a word? Is it possible that at some time there was such a profusion of things that had been urinated on that there was a pressing need to distinguish those that had not?

There are also some hilarious anecdotes about reading such a gigantic book. For example, after finding that reading the OED ten hours a day for months has caused his eyesight to deteriorate, he relents and gets eyeglasses.

When I get back to the library and resume reading I immediately realize why people wear these silly little things -- they make your vision better. I no longer have to move my face closer or farther from the page depending on whether I am reading the definition or the etymology. The headaches do not go away, but they become less severe, And at the end of the day I do not have large patches of gray imposing themselves on my peripheral vision. I am considerably cheered by this improvement, and wish that I could get glasses for all the other parts of my body that don't work as well.

If you enjoy reading, books, or language, run, don't walk, to get this book from your local library or bookstore. I highly recommend it!


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