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Superior Words

The cover of The Superior Person’s Third Book of Words

The tone of this volume is evident from the first entry, “Aasvogel: A vulture. Ideal term for oral insults, the sound being even more offensive than the meaning, which no-one will know anyway”, and is maintained through “Latescent: Becoming obscure or hidden away, as old-world courtesy in a teenager”, and “Psilosis: Two different meanings: alopecia (i.e., baldness) and sprue (a tropical disease). In cursing an enemy, your imprecation should therefore include, as the climactic phrase, ‘and both kinds of psilosis’”, to “Zoophilous: Animal-loving — a practice illegal in some countries”.

The ghost of Ambrose Bierce may be nodding in quiet approval, or perhaps organising a claim for infringement of spiritual copyright. To judge from the number of entries referring to religion, however, this is more God’s dictionary than the Devil’s. Peter Bowler says in his introduction that — except two or three unspecified cases — all the words in this book are real. The tease suggests you ought to be wary about improving your vocabulary with this book without a sanity check provided by a really big dictionary, though too many of the words are missing even from the OED for you to be able to separate the real from the invented so easily.

[Peter Bowler, The Superior Person’s Third Book of Words, Bloomsbury; 1 December 2004; hardback, pp145; ISBN 0747569185; publisher’s UK price £9.99. Originally published by David R Godine in the USA under the title The Superior Person’s Third Book of Well-Bred Words, at $16.95; ISBN 1567921612.]

Page created 30 Apr. 2005

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