Joy of Text
Published on Monday, December 5, 2011 - 2:49pm
Alpha Better Juice or, the Joy of Text is another of Roy Blount Jr.'s romps through the English language. Blount has a way with words and quite obviously loves words having their way with him. The best example of this is the title of his previous work on the subject: Alphabet Juice: the Energies, Gists and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips and Secret Parts, Tinctures,Tonics, and Essences, with Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory. Blount here is having a lot of fun and manages to make etymology seem almost...saucy!
The book is a series of word entries (alphabetical) and a discussion, and a number of digressions, on said word.
KNEE. "From a PIE [Proto-Indo-European] root '*g(e)neu' from which French 'genou', Italian 'genocchio', and English 'genuflect.' John Ayto in this Dictionary of Word Origins adds 'genuine' from the ancient custom of father acknowledging a newborn as his own by placing the infant on his knee. But now I that see that OED and Chambers both throw cold water on this notion, which was the only reason I got into 'knee' in the first place."
GIRL. "...may well have arisen from among a number of Germanic roots that began with a hard 'g' or 'k', ended in 'r,' often took a diminutive suffix 'l' or 'le' and 'denoted young animals, children, and all kinds of creatures considered immature, worthless, or past their prime'."
"At any rate, 'girl' originally meant a child of either sex. No one knows why it became female."
SONICKY "I did make 'sonicky' up, for Alphabet Juice. I needed a word that combined 'sonic' and 'kinesthetic.' Maybe 'kinesonic' or, to keep it Greek 'kinephonic,' would have sounded more scientific, but I didn't want to put on airs, and 'sonicky' had more kick to it.
This is a book best read one chapter (or letter) at a time, so as not to become overstuffed with words.