Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Wednesday Book Review

I Hear America Talking: An Illustrated History of American Words and Phrases by Stuart Berg Flexner (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1976) is a different kind of "dictionary" which authors can use to make sure that their characters don't speak in terms that weren't even in use in that time and place.

It's a big book (505 pp with index). If you're looking for a specific term, go to the index first. Otherwise, browse by subject matter such as Cowboys, Goin' Courtin', Jails and Jailbirds, Pretty Girls, The Roaring 20s, and The New Woman. 

Each section gives a brief (or lengthy, as necessary) history of the subject and, occasionally, some pithy comments and related songs. Explanations for words and phrases used in the context of the subject, along with the (approximate) year that the word was first used in that context, make interesting reading and imperative research for writers who want to write with creditibility and realism.

So, if you're curious about such terms as dude, dogie, tenderfoot, bill and coo, spark, spoon, lovey-dovey, calaboose, the pokey, two-time loser, the cat's pajamas, the bee's knees, snake's hips, bachelorettes, and bloomers, you'll find it all here. In addition, there's everything you'd like to know but would never ask about less eloquent language. . .um. . .you get my meaning!

The book is a permanent resource, one that won't stay shelved for long at a time.

2 comments:

K9friend said...

That sounds like another good one. You are acquiring an excellent collection, Judy!

nlindabrit said...

I cannot think of a more useful resource than that!