Sunday, July 30, 2017

Tyrannosaurus Lex

Tyrannosaurus Lex: The Marvelous Book of Palindromes, Anagrams, and Other Delightful and Outrageous Wordplay
by Rod L. Evans, Ph.D.
Recommended Ages: 13+

The title pretty much tells you what you will find between the covers of this book: plentiful examples of palindromes, anagrams, and other forms of wordplay in the English language, broken up into categories that include heteronyms (words that look the same but have different pronunciations and meanings), homophones and homonyms (which sound and/or are spelled the same, but have different meanings), tautonyms (terms that repeat the same meaning twice), oxymora (terms that seemingly contradict themselves), parasprodokians (sentences that veer in an unexpected direction), names that (intentionally or not) sound like puns, and a lot more.

I bought this book during the same shopping spree, and read it during the same week of vacation, as June Casagrande's Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies. The inevitable comparison between the two books tends, perhaps unfairly, against this book, which doesn't have that book's through-written narrative, effervescent humor, or personable tone. While parts of both books were fun to read aloud to members of my family with whom I was enjoying drinks, munchies, and sunshine on an outdoor deck, a number of chapters were composed of lists of examples so long that I actually skimmed them, because reading them in full, even to myself, would have been unbearable. Another unfortunate comparison arose when I happened to open a book by Richard Lederer (Anguished English, Crazy English, The Play of Words, etc.), to whom this book repeatedly acknowledges its indebtedness. Lederer presents a lot of the same material, with approximately equal exhaustiveness, but does so in a consistently more entertaining way.

So, this book has some fun bits, and could come in handy as a quick-reference handbook to different types of wordplay, with useful examples of each; but as something to read on that outdoor deck, cover to cover, it lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. Well, je sais réellement quoi, but it's awkward to say, "I wished I had bought a book by Richard Lederer instead, or perhaps another book by June Casagrande," so excuse me for feigning ignorance. I'm trying to be nice here. And this is a nice enough little book; though perhaps it shouldn't have been packaged as if it were meant to be a "marvelous ... delightful and outrageous" piece of entertainment. That just sets the reader up for a disappointment.

Evans, a philosopher and lecturer who specializes in everything (politics, religion, ethics, language, etc.), is also the author of The Artful Nuance: A Refined Guide to Imperfectly Understood Words in the English Language; Thingamajigs and Whatchamacallits; and several other books.

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