Word geeks (1984), rejoice! Crack open these covers and immerse yourself in a mind-expanding (1963) compendium of the new words (or new meanings of words) that have sprung from American life to ignite the most vital, inventive, fruitful, and A-OK (1961) lexicographical Big Bang (1950) since the first no-brow (1922) Neanderthal grunted meaningfully.
From the turn of the twentieth century to today, our language has grown from around 90,000 new words to some 500,000—at least, that’s today’s best guesstimate (1936). What accounts for this quantum leap (1924)? In There’s a Word for It, language expert Sol Steinmetz takes us on a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (1949) joyride (1908) through our nation’s cultural history, as seen through the neato (1951) words and terms we’ve invented to describe it all. From the quaintly genteel days of the 1900s (when we first heard words such as nickelodeon, escalator, and, believe it or not, Ms.) through the Roaring Twenties (the time of flappers, jalopies, and bootleg booze) to the postwar ’50s (the years of rock ’n’ roll, beatniks, and blast-offs) and into the new millennium (with its blogs, Google, and Obamamania), this feast for word lovers is a boffo (1934) celebration of linguistic esoterica (1929).
In chapters organized by decade, each with a lively and informative narrative of the life and language of the time, along with year-by-year lists of words that were making their first appearance, There’s a Word for It reveals how the American culture contributed to the evolution and expansion of the English language and vice versa. Clearly, it’s must-reading (1940). And not to disparage any of the umpteen (1918) other language books on the shelf—though they have their share of hokum (1917) and gobbledygook (1944)—but this one truly is the bee’s knees and the cat’s pajamas (1920s).
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: There's a Word for It|
|Release Date: 04-27-2010|
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|Publisher: Harmony Books|
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There's a Word for It
The Dawn of the Twentieth Century:
Life during the first decade of the 1900s was closer to the past than to the future. The great advances of the twentieth century were still to come. Consider these facts: the life span of an average American was about forty-seven years (nowadays it is seventy-eight). The weekly wages of an average worker in 1900 was about $10, and to earn that he had to work ten hours a day for six days of the week. Child labor was rampant. The city poor, many of them recent immigrants, lived in filth and were riddled with disease. Among city dwellers, food was scarce and sanitation almost nonexistent.
And yet people looked back at an even bleaker past and thought that things were looking up. After all, there were new inventions like the telephone and the automobile. Never mind that having a telephone in a house was a rare luxury or that cars were slow, loud, smelly, and too fast (speed limits of twenty miles an hour were considered dangerous). It was progress. To the millions of immigrants huddled in masses in the big cities, America was the new promised land, the golden land of the future.
The term melting pot became a common metaphor for the process of assimilating the new immigrants in the United States into one great American culture. The term was popularized by the 1908 play The Melting Pot, by the English-born writer Israel Zangwill. In the play, which is set in New York City, the immigrant protagonist, David Quixano, declares: "Understand that America is God's Crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and reforming! A fig for your feuds and vendettas! Germans and Frenchmen, Irishmen and Englishmen, Jews and ...