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Alphabet Juice: The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret ... With Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory Paperback – September 29, 2009


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Alphabet Juice: The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret ... With Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory + Alphabetter Juice: or, The Joy of Text + Roy Blount's Book of Southern Humor
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books (September 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374532044
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374532048
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #536,851 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Blount (Long Time Leaving) is a contributing editor to the Atlantic Monthly, a regular panelist on NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! quiz show and a usage consultant to the American Heritage Dictionary. He displays his pleasure in words with his subtitle—The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret Parts, Tinctures, Tonics, and Essences; with Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory—as he dishes up an alphabetical array of verbal reverberations, weasel words and linguistic acrobatics from aardvark to zoology (Pronounced zo-ology. Not zoo-ology. Look at the letters. Count the o's). Along the way, he compares dictionaries, slings slang, digs for roots, posts ripostes and dotes on anecdotes. The format is nearly identical to Roy Copperud's still valuable but out-of-print A Dictionary of Usage and Style (1964). Blount's book is equally instructive and scholarly, but is also injected with a full dose of word play on steroids. Quotes, quips, euphemisms, rhymes and rhythms, literary references (Lo-lee-ta) and puns: The lowest form of wit, it used to be said, but that was before Ann Coulter. Throughout, the usage advice is sage and also fun, since the writer's own wild wit, while bent and Blount, is razor sharp. (Oct. 21)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Ever since Lynn Truss’ Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation took the 2004 best-seller lists by storm, publishers have been casting about for their next dark-horse language book. Farrar may have found it in Blount’s latest title. Much more garrulous than Truss, a shameless name-dropper, and a purveyor of endless anecdotes always casting himself in the starring role, Blount is supremely entertaining here and more than matches Truss’ spirited tone. Laid out in A–Z dictionary format, the book ranges from the pointed critique of conjunction dysfunction to the hilarious diatribe under tump, which finds Blount spending weeks looking for his own name in the new edition of American Heritage Dictionary. Feeling that he is long overdue to be cited for word usage, Blount envies “Hunter Thompson for booger, Jimmy Breslin for boozehound, and William Safire for hoohah.” He is, however willing to concede snob to Tom Wolfe. Although some entries are only tangentially connected to his ostensible subject (see TV, on being on), many others provide Blount with ample opportunity to wax eloquent on the joys of language; his perfect parsing of the allure of the phrase “wonky exegeses” will elicit smiles from fellow language lovers. A knowledgeable handbook that is also chock-full of funny, colorful opinions on marriage, movies, and Monet. --Joanne Wilkinson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 62 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
ALPHABET JUICE is a potpourri of comments on words and the English language, arranged in alphabetically-ordered entries and presented with Blount's characteristic good humor. It is somewhat akin to books on the proper use of words and language, but it should not be pigeon-holed as simply a user's guide. While it does contain a fair measure of advice and commentary on usage (Blount is not particularly uptight, but he does have a prescriptive bent), it also has generous doses of etymology, word play, jokes, and personal experiences and anecdotes. It appears likely that Blount has been collecting material for this book over many years of his career as a writer and somewhat populist man-of-letters.

Blount does push one particular thesis in the book. Contrary to those scholars who hold that the relationship between a word and its meaning is arbitrary, Blount insists that the sound of many words "somehow sensuously evoke[s] the essence of the word." To characterize this quality, he coins the word "sonicky." A few miscellaneous examples (out of hundreds) of sonicky words from the book: "crunch," "gallop," "grunt," "mum," and "squelch." Blount: "If linguisticians can't hear any correspondence between sound and sense in those words, they aren't listening. Even when words aren't coined with sound and sense conjunctively in mind, the words that sound most like what they mean have a survival advantage." And throughout the book, Blount marshals plenty of evidence for this thesis.

But please don't get the idea that ALPHABET JUICE is some sort of high-brow, academic tome. To fully appreciate it, one certainly needs to be generally literate and to care about words and language, but one does not need to hold a graduate degree in English or in linguistics.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jon Hunt on November 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Juice is apt as this book squizzles around the mouth. Could Roy Blount Jr. write a sequel? Not fast enough.

"Alphabet Juice" reaches readers on two levels, I would guess. There are the appreciative mavens of wordom (worddom....word-dom?) who will chuckle and te-hee but the hardcore wordies (of the latter am I) revel in this kind of thing. Ya gotta give Blount credit when, regarding bow-wow, he can't imagine a dog forming a "b". And the last entry on "hip", referring to the guy who had a double hip operation, is one of his best.

Much of the reader's particular interest in this book might be found in how Blount exposes words knowing we may see them differently. I loved "wrought". He dwells on the "ugh" of the word while I wondered how many words in our language could add a letter to both the beginning and the end of "rough" and still come up with a word. The author is a good teacher in that he reminds us of jots and tittles but also adds "clitic" without fear of an "r"-rating.

This is a book to be savored. The narrative sometimes wanders but keep your eyes peeled for the moments when he is spot-on. This is the best book on language to come out in years and I highly recommend it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
People usually don't regard reference books as very much fun. Useful, sure, but as Mark Twain said when he looked up the dictionary's definition of an inflammation he suffered, "The dictionary says a carbuncle is a kind of jewel. Humor is out of place in a dictionary." Twain, though, didn't know Roy Blount Jr., but I think even he would have appreciated the fun in Blount's _Alphabet Juice: The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret Parts, Tinctures, Tonics and Essences; With Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory_ (Sarah Crichton Books). It's not really a dictionary, but it partially is, with definitions and comments on plenty of words Blount likes and some he does not; and it is in alphabetical order. It's long on etymology, too, but it also emphasizes the feel of words as they are formed by our organs of diction, and it has plenty of funny stories, puns, hilarious doggerel, history, social commentary, and movie recommendations. Blount obviously loves words (and it's a good thing, too, since there is a long list of books opposite the title page headed "Also by Roy Blount Jr.") and his enthusiasm is catching. Your reviewer had to start with the A words and read through the Zs, but this is not easy, because most of the words here have references to other words here, and only by a zig-zag course was the end achieved.

Take, for instance, _zigzag_, which Blount finds is from the French _ziczac_ and German _zickzack_. "I have to say, ours is better. Those _ck_ or hard _c_ sounds are hitches that hold too long; our _g_ takes just long enough to evoke a change in direction that's marked but quick.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on January 4, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is the ultimate choose-your-own-adventure book for anybody who loves words, Roy Blount Jr., or both. In the discussion of each word, he often has bolded words that lead you to another word in the book, and in this manner I have skipped from word to word, drawing connections I would not have on my own, and often the insight from a word three words down the chain would inform my knowledge of the original word that started me off.

This is a book that I can sit down and read for five minutes or three hours because of how it is set up, and every entry has a life of its own.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves to read, but also to anyone who loves to talk, because quite often the sounds of words are discussed, which I think is part of what makes this book stand out from others like it.
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