Thursday, December 10, 2015

Say what? A book review

Surprise can be a wonderful thing. Not always, sure. I mean a heard (herd?) of deer (dear? Mmm . . .) trying to leap over your car is surprising and not all that wonderful. But finding a twenty in your jeans or hearing a joke you haven’t heard 14 times or laughing out loud at a book you’re reading for research can be delightful. I recently encountered that last one.

The Art of Language Invention: From Horse-Lords to Dark Elves, the Words Behind World-Building by David J. Peterson is a piƱata of a book. You have to take a good whack at it. And if you do - if you get through the shell - you will be rewarded with all kinds of delicious tidbits.

The way words evolve. Why do does ‘pneumonia’ start with a ‘p’? The secret origin of my archenemy The Homophone. Peterson answers all kinds of questions I had never thought to ask, but I’m considerably better off for having answered. The book is also funny. I love his running onion gag.

Linguistics is not an easy and there is no trick to make it easy. The way we manipulate words is complicated, inconsistent and sometimes infuriating. Taking a look at language from the perspective of a someone who wants to construct one makes trudging through the complexity more of project than a chore.

Oh, yes. I've doing research for a new book. On language. And this bit of work made my work way easier.  I love that even more than onion gags.