Finding the #Write #Words? No.2

Beginning the description of books on the list given in post 1, which you’ll find here.

On with the info.

‘A Dictionary of Misunderstood Misused Mispronounced Words’ Edited by Laurence Urdang, is the first book on my list of word books to bring to your attention. I’m doing this alphabetically; laziness, I guess, although calls on my time are pretty constant.

377 pages, approximately 13,000 word definitions (a guestimate). The book doesn’t give a publishing date, but the foreword’s dated March 1972, which is a good indicator of age. It was published by The Readers Union Ltd, in Devon, UK. Original cost £2.95, but I acquired it second hand for a sum I didn’t record. It’s no longer printed, but was also published as ‘The New York Times Dictionary of Misunderstood Misused Mispronounced Words’, which is available as a used edition, should you want a copy at reasonable cost.

Intentionally limited in its selection, it suggests there are plenty of comprehensive dictionaries available listing as many words as they can pack in; a fact I can attest to, considering the number of them I’ve owned over the years! So, this is an eclectic collection, recording unusual words as defined by the subtitle of the book:

“Words we ‘know’ until someone asks what they mean; words we understand when we read them, but not when we hear them; words we recognize when we hear them, but not when we meet them in print; words we can read, but are unsure about using in conversation; words we can pronounce, but not spell (or vice versa).”

Somewhat oddly, the inner flap of the sleeve cites ‘Logophilia’ (a love of words) as an example of content without actually including it in the book!

Taken from a random open page, the listings run from ‘liquate: to separate or purify metals by heating sufficiently to melt out the various constituents’; through ‘literati: men of letters; intellectuals (yes, it really does restrict this definition to males! An indication of antiquated thinking, I expect)’; and ‘long pig: pidgin for human flesh as a food for cannibals’; to ‘longueur: a tedious stretch, as of time or of a passage in a musical or literary work (something we, as writers, would surely never be guilty of!).

It covers a lot of abstruse (difficult to understand) words among its selection, so, if you’re looking to find the meaning of something out of the ordinary, it may be a quicker source. Though, in these days of the ubiquitous (omnipresent; being everywhere at once) internet search, perhaps such books have had their day?

Nevertheless, it remains on my reference shelf, and is occasionally dusted down and consulted. Students of English language may find this site useful for help in pronunciation. And here’s a good group page on Facebook dedicated to English as a Foreign Language.