Monday, January 22, 2007

Wordgloss : The Meaning and Origin of Words

The following is our book review of Jim O'Donnell's book, Wordgloss : A Cultural Lexicon , which we have reviewed at

"Was this the wish of the Demiurge? Boston to Washington DC is a conurbation! Cui bono?! Do we live in a lexical dystopia awaiting a thaumaturgic gloss revival? Who today knows that "pleonasms are tautologous and should be avoided"? Errata need not be repetitive - a verisimilitude!

Do you need this book? Do you know the words?

Author Jim O'Donnell (book Foreword by John Banville) writes in his preface that "the extraordinary expansion of modern knowledge and its fission into micro-specialties" has created "a niagara of words and concepts flowing from a wide range of disciplines that we have never explored."

The everyday result is that our increasingly sophisticated modern world of communications is confronted by the Hydra-headed cultural stumbling block of a classics-based "verbal universe" manifesting an erstwhile lexical heritage to which most readers no longer have any personal or educational connection.

Wordgloss is not a quintessential corrective panacea for this problem, but O'Donnell writes that "Wordgloss is full of the words and concepts you always meant to look up. It tells you where they came from and how they acquired the meaning or meanings they now have."

The book is written "associatively", which is "pedagogically" more effective than the "linear" scientific style of dictionaries.

Definitely a fun and educating vade-mecum read.

Fons et origo!

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