Mrs. Byrne’s Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words

ISBN: 1559722339
ISBN 13: 9781559722339
By: Josefa Heifetz Byrne Robert Byrne

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At Office Dictionary English Language Linguistics Non Fiction Reference To Read Words Writing

Reader's Thoughts


This book was my near constant companion for writing letters to my friend Herb the 2 years of jr high that he was living in California.

Douglas Wilson



This book will knock you agroff with aeonian delight! Who says reading the dictionary isn't fun?


Resource book mainly. Very entertaining for wordsmiths and amateurs alike

Daniel L.

An Entertaining, Wonderful Source of Little-Known but Interesting WordsWhether you are a sectary compiler of sesquipedelian logisms or simply wish to eschew obfuscation, here is an entertaining collection of words of the English language you are unlikely to find anywhere else, from aasvogel to zzxjoanw - perhaps some other pleonasms to wit. My only misgiving is that the etymologies are not included, though some of the definitions state the source of the word if it is sufficiently unfamiliar. Linguists and wordsmiths will delight in this collection.


A delight.


Dictionary--A malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic. This dictionary, however, is a most useful work.This dictionary is funny, interesting, quaint at times, always unusual, and carries a wide range of arcane, obscure, or simply absurd words. However, it's worth noting that it's also not always correct, sometimes being fallacious and occasionally outright incorrect. Do doublecheck yourself if you plan on using any of these.That being said, whether English professor with time to waste (as if you do anything important as an English professor anyway), or a hipster who wants to drop ten-dollar words and stare at people in disbelief when they don't know them, this is the dictionary for you.


WORDS, WORDS, WORDS!!! In an effort to bring some order to my unruly "words and language shelf", I attempt here to give a succinct evaluation of the 33 books on it which are essentially devoted to words. Those dealing with usage, etymology, language development, and general linguistic issues will, I hope, be evaluated in future reviews. As a quick test of whether this review is likely to be of interest to you, consider the following:The area on your (or any mammal's) back which you cannot reach to scratch is known as the acnestis.Lurgulary is the term used to denote the act of poisoning a water source.The adjective meaning "pertaining to walnuts" is juglandaceous.The verb to maffick means "to engage in wild, boisterous, protracted revelry in the streets", and is a backformation from the city name Mafeking. The association derives from the celebrations that followed the relief of Mafeking on May 17, 1900 after a protracted siege by the Boers; when word of the rescue reached London, "the city erupted in wild celebration which went on for days". If these words fill you with irresistible glee, despite the very low probability you will ever need to use any of them in casual conversation, then at least some of the books considered in this review are likely to appeal to your latent logolepsy. Read on. If, on the other hand, you react to new, weird, or obsolete words with indifference, you may safely skip the rest of this review.With 33 books to evaluate, obviously I need some kind of system. So I will evaluate each book on the following 4 criteria:* breadth of coverage -- does it really deliver the goods, that is, deliver a reasonable quota of truly satisfying obscure words? * scholarship -- is it to be trusted? Are there any egregious errors? Is there evidence of adequate background research? Cross-checking with other sources? * usability -- how user friendly is it? Level of cross-referencing appropriate? Adequate examples of word usage? Thematic organization? Helpful citations and indexing? Is the pronunciation key helpful to the casual reader, or does it require mastery of the IPA (international phonetic alphabet).* charm -- an entirely nebulous quality, but probably the most important. Were the authors having fun when they wrote it? And is that sense of fun transmitted to the reader? Because, frankly, there's nothing more lethally boring than a big book full of fancy words assembled by someone who isn't almost orgasmically enthusiastic about sharing those words. A couple of the books below make ludicrous attempts to engage readers with promises that expanding their vocabulary will lead to improved "success" in life. Such promises are worded in a way that makes it obvious that "success" is being measured in the basest, most soul-destroying, moneygrubbing terms: having just the right two-dollar word at the tip of your reptilian tongue will open all the right doors, affording you countless opportunities to further your spiritual degradation by playing round after round of lickspittle golf with your vile nouveau riche social climbing "boss". This notion is, of course, frankly ridiculous, being based on implicit, and utterly false, premise that mere possession of the dictionary in question will result in the desired augmentation of vocabulary. Well, as Charles Earle Funk might put it, "horsefeathers!" The only way you are going to augment your vocabulary, gentle reader, is by reading, widely, voraciously, and indiscriminately. And if you haven't figured that out by now in life, then none of the books below is gonna help you, sucker! So, with the understanding that books like these interest us because of their potential to surprise and delight, and not as stepping stones to greater "status" or "wealth" or "success", let's get on with it. I will assign each book a score of 0 to 5 on each of the four dimensions discussed previously. So that a superstar like Mrs Byrne might hope to end up with a total score close to 20; duds may expect to languish in the single digits. Obviously this is going to take several posts: I will delay the list of books considered until the next post, coming up immediately.


Etymology is a guilty pleasure of mine-- and this book is the guiltiest of them all! Deliciously obscure words all at my fingertips...what more could i ask for. This copy was hard to come by... i think it's out of print now and so if you happen to see a used copy somewhere, no matter how dog-earred, grab it! You won't be disappointed. It's a gem.

Courtney Smith Atkins

Cute book! A good bathroom reader to have around. Easily, this would make a funny gift for a college or H/S grad to have a as a reference on their desk.

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