Depraved and Insulting English, by Peter Novobatzky and...

Editor's Choice

August 04, 2002|By Michael Pakenham

Depraved and Insulting English, by Peter Novobatzky and Ammon Shea (Harcourt, 272 pages, $13).

This is a drawing-together of two previous volumes by the same authors, one Depraved and the other Insulting. I had not run across them, so I was bowled over by the whole of the two parts. These are all legitimate English-language words, some of them ancient, some not. But for anyone who simply revels in language, it is a delight and a wonder. Gubbertush is "a bucktoothed person." Troat is "the cry of a rutting buck." A creodant is "a primitive, small-brained animal." Apodyopsis is "the act of imagining someone naked." Finally, zowerswopped means "foul tempered." Which is precisely the state you may be in if you find yourself using the bulk of the unfamiliar vocabulary you gain in this enchanting volume. But, more, you will find it abrim with delights.

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