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Ammon Shea is the author of two previous books on obscure words, Depraved English and Insulting English (written with Peter Novobatzky). He read his first dictionary, Merriam Webster's Second International, ten years ago, and followed it up with the sequel, Webster's Third International. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
This chronicle reads half like the journey of a madman and half like a word-of-the-day calendar. In it, Shea (coauthor, Depraved English; Insulting English) wittily describes his headache-inducing descent into the 21,730 pages of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), which he spent a full year reading. Shea sees a dictionary as a work of literature whose words are all alphabetized, and here, he offers readers a rare glimpse into the most obscure corners of the English language, from oddities such as cellarhood (to be a cellar) to the curious quisquilious (garbagelike). Many of these words are modern yet underused gems, but some are so obscure that the OED does not even include a corresponding pronunciation key owing to the word's lack of circulation in recent history. Regular use of these bizarre, sometimes long-forgotten words, writes Shea, will neither inspire advanced social status nor wisdom. Recommended for public and academic libraries.--David L. Reynolds, Cleveland P.L. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
"Oddly inspiring...Shea has walked the wildwood of our gnarled, ancient speech and returned singing incomprehensible sounds in a language that turns out to be our own." -Nicholson Baker, New York Times Book Review "Delicious...a lively lexicon." -O, The Oprah Magazine "Readworthy." -William Safire, The New York Times Magazine