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The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or Two: The Hidden Lives and Strange Origins of Common and Not-So-Common Words Paperback – October 30, 2007

26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Garg, logophilic founder of and the 600,000-subscriber A.Word.A.Day email newsletter, jam-packs his latest good-natured, reader-friendly book (after Another Word A Day) with terms exotic and domestic, lessons in etymology and surprising tricks of the linguist trade, such as the fact that "as a copyright trap... encyclopedia publishers are known to add a fictitious biography or two to their works." Divided into several short chapters, each with a unique focus, Garg covers topics like the "language mint" successes ("Grok," "Scofflaw," "Teetotal"), words that come from fictional character names ("Prufrockian," "Throttlebottom," "Zelig"), food-speak ("Epicurean," "Julienne," "Postprandial") and units of measurement ("Dol," "Millihelen," "Miner's Inch"). "Lexperts," as Garg calls them, will enjoy testing themselves with 77 trivial pursuit-style questions, though readers may bemoan the lack of a comprehensive index. Otherwise, Garg's latest little gem will be enjoyed by anyone with a thing for words, language and history.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Plume (October 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452288614
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452288614
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #188,244 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Anu Garg is the founder of, a community of more than half-million readers in some 200 countries. He grew up in rural India. He learned the English language as a second language and moved to the US to study computer science in graduate school. He worked as a software engineer at a number of corporations including AT&T Labs. Eventually he gave up his career in software for the love of words and founded to spread the magic of words.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Mind-Body-Spirit VINE VOICE on October 30, 2007
Format: Paperback
If you love language and cherish your own rich and interesting vocabulary, you've got to read this book ! It is full of fascinating, odd and wonderful words, that you may be able to work into a sentence or two, or maybe even a conversation.

In a world in which words are shrinking, and where text-messaging is creating a whole new vocabulary of non-words, this book is a breath of fresh air.

If you love words and their origins, you will love this book !
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 29, 2008
Format: Paperback
Most people rarely learn a new word after they pass their last vocabulary test in school. That's a shame. Words and their origins can be the source of a lot of fun. Anu Garg makes that point obvious in The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or Two by providing clever word puzzles and word histories filled with fascinating details, humor, and irony. If you can't get enough after you read the book, subscribe to Garg's online weekly newsletter.

Let me give you two samples of the book:

1. "Orthographically speaking, what do the two countries Afghanistan and Tuvalu have in common?" (Hint: Look closely.)

2. "Dord: The word density had a short-lived synonym: dord . . . While the second edition of Webster's New International Dictionary was under way, an editor received an entry 'D or d,' which was defined as density, where the uppercase D and the lowercase d were abbreviations for the word density. The editor conflated the letters as dord and a new word was born."

The material is organized around themes into chapters with the quiz questions inserted to keep you awake. Entries are short so this is a good book to read when you just have a few minutes to spare. I read it while waiting for my car to be aligned, and the car guys were wondering what was so funny.

An on-going theme is the mobility of language as meanings grow, shift, and sometimes even become their polar opposites. I was particularly intrigued by the many mechanisms by which the real world turns into fiction and words and fiction creates new words with precise story-defined meanings.

Anu Garg has a sense of humor and a love of words that's contagious.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca B on April 26, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you're a word nerd or a language lover, this is the book for you. I was searching for a birthday present for a linguaphile friend of mine, and decided that this would be a pretty good purchase. Boy, was I wrong -- it was a great purchase! I found myself reading through the chapters, picking up all kinds of useful knowledge like the origin of the word "cappuccino" (it's pretty interesting, and I won't spoil it for you). Seriously, this is a fun and interesting book on word origins and I highly recommend it. I'm willing to bet that Garg's other books are also great, and I can't wait to check them out.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By STEPHEN PLETKO on June 2, 2008
Format: Paperback

"This book is a collection of stories behind words. It is not meant to be a comprehensive treatise on the origin of words; rather, it presents a selection of some of the most fascinating stories behind words."

The above is found in the introduction to this intriguing, slim anthology of entertaining etymology by Anu Garg, creator of "A word A Day" Internet site. Over 250 words, (names, and terms) have their origins explored, both common words and not-so-common words. As well, the quotation that titles this review is completely accurate--nothing compares to the drama of words.

Here's a sample of some of this book's chapter titles along with a sampling of a few words etc. whose origins are explored:

(1) Tasty words: baker's dozen, trencherman, julienne, frankenfood
(2) People who became words: Annie Oakley, Ponzi scheme, Goldwynism, Xanthippe
(3) Fictional characters who came alive (through words): Boniface, sad sack, Sherlock, zelig, mitty
(4) Places that became words: Spartan, Corinthian, Neanderthal, New York minute
(5) It's all a myth: tantalize, apollonian, phoenix, dragon's teeth

Peppered throughout the book are 77 puzzles or trivia questions about words. Examples include:

(1) What's a synonym of the word synonym?
(2) What letter of the alphabet is the dog's letter?
(3) What word becomes shorter when two letters are added to it?
(4) What's the only number that has as many letters in its spelling as its value?
(5) What word begins with a "t," ends with a "t," and is full of T?

Finally, the only problem I had with this book is that the phonetic spelling of the words (to aid in pronunciation) are not indicated. For the more common words, this is no problem.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Michael R. Bash on December 2, 2007
Format: Paperback
As a long time reader of AWAD, I thought I knew what to expect. The first sections were simpler than the daily offerings. Then he seemed to concentrate on finding items which "will be good for my new book". Let's put it this way. Each week there is a roundup of reader comments on the words of the week in AWAD. They are intelligent, interesting, insightful and of astonishing variety, a feast for the lexofilos. Something tells me this group will find this little book something of a letdown. But if the new book can bring more people into the world of words, it's good. We need all the help we can get in the land of lexopenia.
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