Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice

December 14, 2003|By Michael Pakenham

More Weird and Wonderful Words, by Erin McKean. Oxford. 130 pages. $16.95.

McKean, an Oxford University Press dictionary editor, here has added more than 400 obscure -- and almost all utterly delightful -- words to the 400 or so that appeared in WWW last year. The definitions and commentaries she adds are sophisticated, charming and instructive. I defy anyone to spend an hour with this volume and not then go forth trying to ornament the vocabulary of every friend and kin. I think my favorite entry is "dromaeognathous ... having a palate like that of an emu. This is such a wonderful word that it's a shame that most people would have to work extremely hard to wangle this into conversation. In fact, it may be impossible." Not when I am chatting with my pet ostrich, it isn't. But that's my only quibble. A great nerve tonic if you like words and are feeling low.

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