Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

writing

 

The August 25 Union-Tribune Festival of Books, set in Liberty Station attracted between 15,000 and 20,000 book lovers. No surprise there, as San Diego is routinely ranked by Amazon among the nation’s Most Well Read Cities.

What may surprise you is that reading books helps us to live longer and richer lives. According to a recent article by Doug Williams in this paper’s Health section, “Several studies in recent years indicate that reading — especially reading books — is beneficial to health, wellness and even longevity.” Research by the Yale University School of Public Health concludes that three-and-a-half or more hours of reading per week lowers a person’s risk of dying by 20 percent.

Groucho Marx famously quipped, “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” Science is proving the truth of Groucho’s claim.

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This year marks the bicentennial of Frankenstein, the most famous work of the English Romantic Age. The novel was published anonymously on January 1, 1818. Its author is usually identified as Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, but persuasive arguments have been made that the real author is her husband, the English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.

In the classic horror story, “Frankenstein” refers to the mad doctor Victor Frankenstein, not the Boris Karloff character. Old Zipperneck is properly alluded to as “Frankenstein’s monster.” Puristically, the cliché “creating a Frankenstein” makes no sense.

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Henry David Thoreau, who wrote Walden, helped runaway slaves escape to Canada and became one of the first Americans to speak in defense of John Brown. When Thoreau spent a day in jail for committing civil disobedience on the dictates of his conscience, he was visited by friend Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Emerson asked, “Henry, why are you here?”

Thoreau answered, “Waldo, why are you not here?”

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For many readers, Ken Kesey’s title One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is no more than a casual reference to the children’s folk rhyme “One flew east. One flew west. One flew over the cuckoo’s nest.” But beyond that reference lurks the contradiction embedded in the eccentric, polarized world of the novel. Cuckoos do not build nests; they lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. The discrepancy mirrors the central irrationality of the novel itself, in which the bars separating the sane and insane, watchers and watched and saints and sinners waver and blur.

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According to The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown, the words gargoyle and gargle are related because of the gargling sound cathedral waterspout heads make. Both gargoyle and gargle derive from an Old French root, gargouille, meaning “throat,” apparently from the water passing through the mouths of the grotesque figures.

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Plagiarism, literary thievery, involves the stealing of another’s words and ideas. The word retains much of the meaning of the original Latin plagiarius, “a kidnapper.” A plagiarist is indeed one who has kidnapped the brain child of another writer. That’s why your English teacher admonished you that plagiarism is serious business.

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This coming Friday, September 28, will be National Good Neighbor Day. The word neighbor, derives from an Old English compound that means the “dweller” who is “nigh,” or near, you. Recent studies indicate that loneliness and isolation are as life-threatening as smoking or obesity. So please think about connecting more deeply with your neighborhood. It’s better for your health and the health of your neighbors.

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Next Saturday, September 29, 11 am-5 pm, I’ll be speaking about and signing my books, including The Joy of Names, for La Mesa Chamber of Commerce Day. I’ll be part of a local authors event at Barnes & Noble Booksellers, 5500 Grossmont Center Drive. For info, call 619 667 2877. I’d love to meet you there. Book sales will benefit military families living in La Mesa.