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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
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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

(Alphabet Juice #1)

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  852 ratings  ·  206 reviews
Ali G: How many words does you know?

Noam Chomsky: Normally, humans, by maturity, have tens of thousands of them.

Ali G: What is some of 'em?

-Da Ali G Show

Did you know that both mammal and matter derive from baby talk? Have you noticed how wince makes you wince? Ever wonder why so many h-words have to do with breath?

Roy Blount Jr. certainly has, and after forty years of maki
Hardcover, 364 pages
Published October 14th 2008 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Start your review of 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
Elevate Difference
Jan 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I stand firm in the belief that the most obnoxious party conversation of all is the origins of words. There is never a good reason to bust out the Old French "cover fire" roots of "curfew." A close second is the proper use of words and expressions. For the ultimate horror, a combination: a statement on the proper use of an expression, followed by the origin of that expression or the words therein. I, like many people, have been guilty of all these pretensions in the past, but in the last few yea ...more
Nov 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
This wasn't quite as brilliant as the first chapter, included as teaser in the New Work Times book review a few weeks ago, led me to expect. But there is plenty of good stuff to cheer and amuse the reader.

The book is formatted like a dictionary, in which each entry is an idiosyncratic riff by Blount on some aspect of the alphabet, words, the English language, language generally, or English usage. (Blount is a member of the American Heritage Dictionary usage panel.)

What do I mean by 'idiosyncra
Apr 20, 2010 rated it did not like it
This book is awful. If I wanted some bastard's pompous opinion and whiny complaints about how the English language should work the way he wants it to, Id hang out outside the Starbuck's begging for it. I checked this out expecting humourous etymologies, but instead I got 3% etymologies, and 97% random whiny blurbs of awfulness ...more
Dec 04, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I don't know who Roy Blount Jr. is, but he obviously thinks a lot of himself. Apparently his publisher does too, considering the incredible leeway he was given over the content in this book. He rants on politics, he covers language usage and vocal anatomy, there were arcane sports references and random poetry. Altogether, this book left me with a headache, which is saying something for an avowed lexophile. In fact, I would never have kept reading it if not for the truly interesting etymological ...more
Nov 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Terence by: Heard Blount interview on radio
For anyone who seriously enjoys using words, this is a marvelous book. A collection of mini-essays about words and phrases that have struck Blount's fancy. If there's a serious point to the book, it's one that I'm whole-heartedly in favor of: A language loses "something" when its speakers cease to care about what they write and say. We should encourage and celebrate sprachgefuhl (imagine an umlaut above the "u"), a feeling for language, the mot juste, an ear for idiom.

Some representative example
May 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
LOVE. a few highlights, below:

1. "(Did you know that Hells Angels refer to themselves as 'AJ' because it sounds so much like 'HA'?)" [9:]
2. "I thought I had found a flaw in AHD, where it says 'abracadabra' originally 'was a magic word, the letters of which were arranged in an inverted pyramid'.... [visual representation of how this works:]... Am I relieved that this book didn't turn, just now, into a flock of pigeons." [13-14:]
3. "We got where we were supposed to. He was good at what he did. But
May 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is a book about words; the subtitle sums it up very nicely. Roy Blount Jr. is one of my favorite panelists on Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me, so I thought I'd try out one of his books. I liked this book because I really like words. Not just reading them, but saying them and learning about them. If you are not interested in reading this book, I offer three highlights:

tmesis- inserting a word into another word for an intensifying effect. Example from my life: Tyler was trying to come up with a mnem
Dec 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This review refers to the Audiobook version of Alphabet Juice. If you have the opportunity I highly suggest giving the audio-book version a listen. I was a little dubious at first, books about language don't necessarily do very well in audio format, but I'm SO glad I gave it a try. Mr. Blount's joy and zest for language really comes alive as he reads his book. It's a sheer delight to listen to. Alphabet Juice is a superbly apt name for this book; it's not often that you find something that delig ...more
Dec 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Word lovers unite! (Bad spellers untie!) Never has the exploration of the alphabet and its combinations been so much fun. Blount Jr. (the missing comma before Jr., he explains herein, is intentional) talks about words that look and sound exactly the way they should (without the G, "phlegm" just wouldn't be the same), stopping along the way to tell some barely relevant stories that are, like the book subtitle says, foul and savory. My faves involve Wilt Chamberlain, Leonard Bernstein, and Harry T ...more
Glenn Cheney
Jul 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book. So endlessly fascinating and so full of facts and thoughts and quips that I have to keep going back and re-reading parts of it even before I get to the end. Highly recommended for anyone who is interested in the English language. It's quite unlike any other book about words.

This book gets 5 stars because not only will I read it again, but I will keep reading it and reading it. I manage to forget much of what I read, so I'm happy to keep rereading. It's my bathroom book.

Dec 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book most likely isn't for everyone, in particular those who are already snoring at the mention of a book about the origins, moods, and usage of words. But, for those who fret over getting the most out of language, written and spoken, when they use it, and who see it as a tool and a thing of beauty, this is a great find.

Blount's book is written in entry form, with a section devoted to each letter of the English alphabet, complete with an introductory entry for each letter. This keeps the bo
Jan 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Writters; Readers; English Teachers; Anyone with an interest in words or the English Language
What a great book. It is like stepping inside Roy Blount Jr.’s head and watching his brain work. The man has an amazing respect for words and the English language. Words have meaning and need to be used properly if they are to convey communication. Roy certainly discusses the meaning and proper use of words and phrases, but more enjoyably he discusses the sonic essence of words and letters and phrases.

He talks of pips and pops and fits and stops. The slither and hiss of an s. How stuff is just f
May 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
When looking up a word in a dictionary, I always wander off path like Red Riding Hood going after just one more wildflower, then another, and another. Roy Blount Jr.'s unique glossographia is full of the most delightful flowers! I set out to read the pages in numerical order, but before I was finished with the A's (Mr. Blount would approve of this use of the apostrophe) I was enticed into the woods by a splendid "see" reference. Then another. And another.

Here's a bit from page 8 to entice other
May 07, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2009
What a bloated, vanity project! The book has 5 stars moments but they are rare. He keeps talking about himself and quoting himself. (See tump). Enough!!

I was shaking my head and saying "Amen!" to another reviewer's comments.
1) It seems as if he just learned how to use the internet and wants to bore us with his search results
2) He must have discovered an old notebook with all his ramblings and old ideas and decided to add them to the book.
3) There are times when I have no idea what he's talking
Dec 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Fun book. It's not necessarily a book you just sit down and read cover to cover since it's organized like a dictionary and contains entries with cross references. It's certainly no dry dictionary (though I hasten to add I was a nerdy kid who read the dictionary for fun). Blount comes from the perspective that words are not arbitrary strings of sound representing abstractions. His argument, presented delightfully, is that words have a "sonicky" quality (see the book for a definition of his coinag ...more
Jan 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People who love language and words
This is a love letter to words from a man who has clearly spent his life loving the way they work, where they come from, and what they sound like. Structured like a reference book, Alphabet Juice can be read front to back or skipping around. The latter approach, while it may reveal some of the fun connections between words (as Blount sees them), carries the risk of missing some of his more fun entries. While Blount intends to teach in some entries, giving origins and relationships, his main goal ...more
Dec 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
First of all, who could resist that title? Secondly, Alphabet Juice has the best of both worlds -- not only is it highly entertaining, but you just might learn something through all that laughter. I found it nearly impossible to read the book straight through, because of the constant cross-referencing -- I had to use two bookmarks to keep track of my place. As Blount himself says in the introduction, "If you read this book the way I would read it and the way I've written it, you will wear it out ...more
May 14, 2009 added it
Strangely, I couldn't get into this. I like Roy Blount's humorous essays and I like thinking about the English language but I found the format irksome. I've been noticing of late how much I like a plot, a longer narrative. This book is written as a dictionary of sorts with referrals to other entries peppering the text. You are supposed to read it by hopping all over the place, says so in the introduction. Well, I just don't feel like hopping. I think, in fact, that one of the reasons I read is t ...more
Oct 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult, non-fiction
Does it count if you're listening to the audiobook? I've always liked Blount's humor when I've heard him on NPS shows, so it seemed natural to buy the audiobook. Unfortunately, listening to people read often puts me to sleep. Doesn't reflect on the quality of the book. I'm just saying.
I loved the arrangement and the random quality of the analysis of our alphabet and the words that it makes. Plus, the randomness makes it easy to pick up and put down at will (or if asleep) and find something wonde
Jan 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
I frequently had to restrain myself from reading bits of this book out loud to whomever else was in the room. Arranged as in a dictionary, each "entry" was actually a witty miniature essay expounding on some quirk, discussing the etymology, or reveling in the satisfying mouth-sound of the word or phrase in question.

I would've preferred to have more of the book delivered in the style of the first chapter (a bubbling, babbling essay on the sheer joys of wordcraft) at the expense of the dictionary
Aug 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
I'm a long time admirer of Mr. Blount's gift with words and phrases and it's with an eye toward this that I give it four stars. As a fan of "Wait, Wait...", I'm not unfamiliar with his political left leaning, so his taking shots at right-wing and conservative types didn't some as a surprise, but some of them were petty (and far too easy) and diminished the overall enjoyment. Still... I probably shared more excerpts from this book on social media than any other I can remember, so I can't end on a ...more
Nov 20, 2008 rated it liked it
While I really enjoy Roy Blount, jr.'s style and language, no matter what his topic, this book has its peaks and valleys. The most humourous bits are really great, but the dry spots warrant a quick skim. Overall, it's worth a read if you find yourself fascinated and delighted by the intricacies of language well highlighted by Blount throughout his career. I'd give it 3.5 stars if I could, but this ain't Star Search. ...more
ccccurt Heimbuck
Dec 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I'll never finish this book. It's a reference book and that means I'll have to buy it. When I do, I will keep it next to my dictionary, my Elements of Style, my Encyclopedia of Word Phrase Origins, and my NIV as the ultimate style guides. That I used the common noun "dictionary" and did not enumerate the name and edition of my dictionary undermines my status as word nerd. I'll need to work on that. ...more
Apr 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Adults, language fans
Recommended to Valerie by: NPR
A delightful book filled with wit, charm and information. I read it on kindle and I should have read it in hard cover, which would have made following the cross-references easier and given full expression to the rambling tone of the book.

I'm going to read all his books. Even better, I'll get them in audio and have him read them to me (he's got a great voice--check out "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" on NPR).
Oct 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Warning: this is for word nerds only. A reference book of sorts, it defines words and terms of Blount's choosing, but also gives word origins and examples of changes in meaning. Under "cheese" he lists the words said in various languages when having one's photo taken. The "muscle/mussel" entry tells us both words were the same in ancient Rome. Under "Wyoming" he suggests that we start using it as a verb, since it looks like one. Learning made fun. ...more
Nov 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book is astounding. I don't think I'll ever finish this book cover-to-cover: One section takes you to another entry, then to another, then back to the beginning. Reading Alphabet Juice is like driving the length of Route 66 and stopping to take in all the roadside attractions and blue-plate diners. ...more
Jan 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Blount is a master. I'd only heard him on "Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me!", the NPR news quiz, and had no idea he was such a lexicographical nut. His observations on words go from witty to profane, with an occasional Southern tinge that fits just right. This is a book where you dive in at the middle and happily stumble along from there. ...more
Feb 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Word people. Word, people.
Recommended to Guy by: Bill Simmons (in his column)
Finally, someone else who cares as much as I do about words and their use. I am so sick of people using exhaustive when they mean exhausting and disinterested when they mean uninterested. It's good to know there's someone else out there raging against the Newspeak-ification of our language. Double plus good. ...more
Nov 03, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: humor, 2009, library-book
This was a serendipitous find at the library. Soemthing of a cross between Strunk and White and a work on word history, this is a most entertaining jaunt. Many jokes illustrate the finer points of instruction and lots of oddball trivia will attract word buffs. Recommended for anyone interested in the English language.
Dec 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Books on language, especially on English, have always had quite a draw for me. I own a number of them and pull one off the shelves when I want a pick-me-up. This one is going on that shelf as soon as I can manage, since it's truly one of the juiciest on the subject. I enjoyed it so much that when I was halfway through reading it, I found myself looking forward to reading it again. ...more
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Roy Blount Jr. is the author of twenty-three books. The first, About Three Bricks Shy of a Load, was expanded into About Three Bricks Shy . . . and the Load Filled Up. It is often called one of the best sports books of all time. His subsequent works have taken on a range of subjects, from Duck Soup, to Robert E. Lee, to what cats are thinking, to how to savor New Orleans, to what it’s like being m ...more

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