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ZOUNDS!: A Browser's Dictionary of Interjections 1st Edition
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About the Author
Mark Dunn is a lifelong word lover and the author of Ella Minnow Pea (nominee for Book Sense Adult Fiction Book of the Year, and winner of the Borders Original Voices Awards for fiction), Welcome to Higby (short listed by Publishers Weekly as one of the best novels of the year), and Ibid: A Life. He makes his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Sergio Aragones is a legendary contributor to Mad Magazine, where his work has appeared in every issue since 1963. His cartooning talents can also be seen in his bestselling comics, including "Groo the Wanderer," "Louder than Words," and "Boogeyman". He lives and works in Ojai, California.
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Top customer reviews
As a writer of fiction, I purchased ZOUNDS hoping for a comprehensive dictionary of interjections used in dialogue, and I was not disappointed.
In addition to the definition, many entries include anecdotal information, the origin of the interjection, and a comment on the timeframe of usage. For example, "as if" was first recorded in 1905, "score!" was popular among teenagers in the 1990's, and "hey, Abbott!" has not been used much since the 1950s. That information might save a writer of historical or near historical fiction from making an embarrassing blunder. Also quite valuable is the nine-page index at the end of the book, which provides a concise list of dialogue possibilities from aaayy to zzzzzp.
For general use, I agree with Dennis Laycock's review that this is a good book for the WC. For writers of dialogue, it's a handy reference tool.
Others looking for just American phraseology will enjoy this, however.
Let's face it, language would be a lot more boring without interjections, those odd little flourishes to emphasize whatever we're saying ("Drat! I dropped the cake!"). In "ZOUNDS!: A Browser's Dictionary of Interjections," Mark Dunn dissects the various interjections we say, and what they mean.
From "aayyy" to "zzzzp!", Dunn explores various interjections from the past and present, and they're a surprisingly colourful bunch -- there's the obvious little ones like "ah," "oh," "eh," and "aaaarrruuugah," which are mainly convenient noises.
But he also exxplores obscure little words ("beero!"), and ones that were used long ago or have fallen into disuse ("beauseant!"). Not to mention ones from other cultures ("Gut shabbes!"), or from movies ("Keeks!" "Nee!"). A disproportionate number seem to euphemisms for God ("Gosh all hemlock!"), or some rather impolite words ("Fudge!").
But he doesn't just tell us about these words, or what they mean. For example, it turns out that "ods bodkins" is actually a corruption of "God's bodkins" -- loosely translated, "God's little body," which was considered a very wicked phrase in Elizabethan times. Or that "slogan" is derived from an ancient Gaelic call to arms. Betcha didn't know any of that.
Moreover, Dunn explains them in an easy, chatty manner, as if he were a pal imparting various linguistic trivia. And he peppers the whole book with pop culture and literary references, as well as little "skits" to emphasize what they mean ("Dear girl, you have just destroyed all my cultures of the antibacterial Penicillium notatum!" "Oops!").
Even better, some of these interjections are so rare that they can serve two purposes: first, to serve as party trivia, such as "Did you know that the word 'begorra' may be connected to vivisection?". Second, some of them would make wonderful insults that no one can reply to.
"ZOUNDS!: A Browser's Dictionary of Interjections" is not only vastly entertaining, but tells us a lot about a part of language that nobody really thinks about. Imbars bidbib!
My assumption is that this book will appeal to two groups of people: trivia buffs and writers. My guess is that by reading this book, which can be enjoyable and addictive, the trivia buff reader will be able to impress a rival or two at Trivial Pursuit. The second group of people that may purchase this book would be writers hoping to find a clever phrase or expression for a character. This may not be the best idea. Anyone who has ever participated in a writing workshop knows that someone comes up with a catch phrase for a character and the others in the group cannot wait to pounce on it, but it may not be the worst tool for writers. Since Dunn gives a history of the interjections in the book, it may help a writer avoid copyrighted material. Teachers may also find the book helpful. It could be read in an English class from time to time as a way of showing how language evolves.
Regardless of whether it sits on a reference shelf or if it's purchased for pleasure, the book is interesting and amusing and without a doubt it will teach the reader something new.
Not to insult the author, who does a fine job of documenting the birth of hundreds of interjections. The story about Kipling and Twain competing to write the most ribald story is one I'll not forget. And I picked up a few obscure interjections that I plan to use and freak people out once in a while.