A Language Gift List

So what do you get that word lover for Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate)? Here are a few suggestions.

Of course, topping your gift list should be Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends, by David Wilton, Oxford University Press, 2004, $21.95. Not only will you be giving a great gift, but you’ll be putting some ducats into my pocket.

Susie Dent’s Fanboys and Overdogs: The Language Report, Oxford University Press, 2005, is a look at the latest trends in the langauge.

Lovers of political jargon will enjoy Hatchet Jobs And Hardball: The Oxford Dictionary Of American Political Slang, edited by Grant Barrett, Oxford University Press, 2004, $25.00. It’s a great source for the origins of political terms. Barrett is also the editor of doubletongued.org.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive history of the English language to give to someone, you can’t do much better than David Crystal’s The Stories of English, Overlook, 2004, $15.95. Or try Melyvyn Bragg’s The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language, Arcade, 2004, $27.95.

More limited in the scope of its coverage is Do You Speak American, by Robert MacNeil and William Cran, Harvest Books, 2004, $13.00. It’s the companion book to the PBS television documentary about American dialect.

If it’s dictionaries you want to know more about, there are two excellent books by Simon Winchester on the history of the Oxford English Dictionary. The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 2004, $13.95, is a "biography" of the famous dictionary. The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of The Oxford English Dictionary, HarperCollins, 1998, $13.95, is the story of one peculiar contributor the dictionary.

I must confess, I haven’t read this next one, but Michael Quinion is the editor of worldwidewords.org and he does good work. So I have no problems including Ballyhoo, Buckaroo, and Spuds: Ingenious Tales of Words and Their Origins, Smithsonian Books, 2004, $19.95.

Going Nucular: Language, Politics, and Culture in Controversial Times, by Geoffrey Nunberg, Public Affairs, 2004, $18.95, is a collection of NPR radio essays by the Stanford linguist.

And if language and the brain is your bag, you can’t go wrong with Steven Pinker’s classic The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language, Perennial Classics, 1994, $15.00.

It’s not so much about language, but something that any language lover would enjoy is The Complete New Yorker: Eighty Years of the Nation’s Greatest Magazine, Random House, 2005, $100. It’s a collection of DVD-ROMs containing the complete archives the great magazine. You can find it for about $60 and it’s well worth the price.

Also available electronically is Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language, Octavo, 2005, $50.00. This edition is complete and on CD-ROM.

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