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The Clan of the Flapdragon and Other Adventures in Etymology, by B.M.W. Schrapnel, Ph.D.

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0817308810
ISBN-10: 0817308814
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

With the advent of B. M. W. Schrapnel, Ph.D., it seems that etymology has found its P. D. Q. Bach. Just as Peter Schickele--"discoverer" of several manuscripts of P. D. Q. Bach, last child of the prolific Johann Sebastian--lampoons baroque music and its performance with P. D. Q.'s schleptets and serenudes, so does Richard McKee, creator of B. M. W., parody Safirean language mavens, and nearly everyone else. The essays in The Clan of the Flapdragon and their accompanying "letters from readers," which originally appeared in the literary magazine Oasis, are dense, satiric, and at times quite academic. Does the "Bop 'Til You Drop" bumpersticker on a late-model Lincoln advocate that you dance all night, jazz it up till the wee hours, or "fornicate until you faint"? If poon is a type of East Indian tree and tang is (a) a Chinese dynasty; (b) the small end of a knife; or (c) a verb meaning "to ring loudly," then "how in the bloody hell poontang is synonymous with sexual intercourse ... beats the poop out of me!" In "What to Buy Your Wordmonger," Schrapnel recommends a specific Shakespeare edition: "It is a 1937 edition, but you know the Bard. He has not written a word lately." The same essay advises that "if noxious sedatives are your bent, there is The Bridges of Madison County (still) and its author's relapse, Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend." And in a speech to the International Society for Unbelievably Preposterous Prose, Schrapnel tells writers hoping to be published that "if you are unbelievably lucky and somehow drop your manuscript on the right desk at the right time ... well, think of all of those postage stamps as lottery tickets."

Review

"In its play with language, The Clan of the Flapdragon is simultaneously a celebration of language- a tribute to the power of the word and the vital role of literacy in our culture. McKee delights in reminding us that language is not solely the tool of advertisers, politicians, literary theorists, or other extremists."
—Stanley W. Lindberg, Editor, The Georgia Review
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: University Alabama Press (October 23, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0817308814
  • ISBN-13: 978-0817308810
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,894,390 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By A Customer on August 23, 1998
Format: Hardcover
One thing can be said for sure about The Clan of the Flapdragon and Other Adventures in Etymology, by B.M.W. Schrapnel, Ph.D.: There has never been another book quite like it. It almost defies description. It's part serious etymology, part semi-serious satire and part, as mentioned on the book jacket, "dementia."
Technically the book is a collection of thirty short pieces on a wild variety of topics. Three titles give you an idea of the range of Schrapnel's interests: "The Protean Obscenity and His Sister," "Romanticism Now and Then," and "Ted Nugent Must Die!"
Almost every article is followed by letters purportedly written in response to the piece in question. This feature is called "Cleopatra's Basket," and I suspect many readers, like me, will find it the funniest part of the book. It's filled with classic spoofs of the kind of missives sent in by readers of serious literary magazines.
It's hard to pin down exactly where Dr. Schrapnel stands on the numerous political, artistic, academic and cultural issues he rants about. He's an equal opportunity satirist, as every good satirist should be. For instance, he spends a lot of time skewering people like the "slime-cake politician who's on the secret payroll of big industry and rampant development at any cost." But just when you have him pegged as a tree-hugger, you come across something like, "Most environmental organizations are a crock of wormy fools who get off watching itsy-bitsy birds, or identifying pukey-colored butterflies, while the habitat near and around them goes down at a more methodical and embarrassing rate every year, sort of like your Buffalo Bills at the Super Bowl."
Or take feminism.
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Format: Hardcover
I am aghast. Never have I read a book that is so annoying, erudite, and hilarious all at the same time. Schrapnel's method of using discussions of word origins as springboards into rants on everything from literature to poontang to wild leeks is quite the satirical hoot. Particularly of interest are his parodies on poetry criticism by way of essays on a dead poet named Toulouse Mars, who was also a licensed proctologist. Schrapnel takes a radical stance on environmental activism implying that the green movement is not violent enough. Also amusing and enlightening is his piece on writer rejection slips. Finally, the author's discriminating comparison of the words WISDOM and CYNICISM is a smart reminder that so many writers and supposed thinkers of the day are often little more than third-rate wisecrackers pretending to be philosophical and learned. Then there are the letters from supposedly irate readers of Schrapnel, which verify the theory put forth in the Preface that the book can also be read as an epistolary novel. There is so much going on here in the way of zany, sophisticated satire that I guess I'll have to read it again and again.
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Format: Hardcover
The Clan of the Flapdragon is a fun book of short essays. Each one concerns the history of some word or phrase, but quickly veers off in unexpected directions. The word is "weenie" in "Weenie Roasts and Ecotage" but before long Dr. chrapnel has managed to slur environmentalists, the Buffalo Bills, Sarasota county commissioners and Oscar Meyer. This is not light reading, a book to be kept on the nightstand to induce drowsiness. Read Dr. Schrapnel carefully and you will be awed by his insight, revolted by his pomposity and floored by his wit...sometimes all in one sentence. Often, as in the excellent piece "Hoodunit" you may wonder whether Schrapnel has done some outstanding research or just made the whole thing up. Unlike Dave Barry, he never tells. But in the end it doesn't matter..."Hoodunit" is fun to read in either case. This book is best enjoyed like a box of chocolates: one or two a day. Okay, maybe a third, but save some for tomorrow.
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