Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice

February 08, 2004|By Michael Pakenham

Making Whoopee: Words of Love for Lovers of Words, by Evan Morris. Algonquin. 208 pages. $15.95.

Just in time to take some of the mystery out of Valentine's Day, if that's what you are after, comes this charming jaunt into the vocabularies of love, lust and liaisons. Morris styles himself "The Word Detective," with a Web site (www.word-detective.com) and a widely syndicated column -- which has yielded a previous book of the same title. Here, he delves into and delivers meanings, origins and associations of terms from Adonis to Yen. It's all done with both wit and scholarship. The entry for ogle, for example, ends with the declaration that the word "means 'to cast amorous glances' and first appeared in English in the seventeenth century, [and] comes from the Dutch word oog, meaning 'eye,' which is where it all starts but rarely stops." Darling has been around the English language since the year 888; if you want to be classic, spell it deorling. Lothario, of course, was a character in Nicholas Rowe's 1703 play, The Fair Penitent. He seduced and dropped poor Calista, who committed suicide, as might be expected. There's lots more.

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