Holiday books

On December 7th, a special issue of the NYT Book Review with a pile of reviews organized by category. Took me more than a week to get through, because it was packed with fascinating-sounding books. Here, a small number of highlights.

Books on language. “Just Sayin'” by Peter Sokolowski, on p. 41, beginning inauspiciously, “It’s surprising that even in this data-driven era, we don’t know exactly how many words there are in English.” Any competent linguist or lexicographer will tell you that there’s no way to answer this question (Language Loggers periodically blog on the matter.). And they’d wonder why you’re interested in the question in the first place.

But the books:

my colleague Dan Jurafsky’s wonderful The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu

How to Speak Money, by John Lanchester

How to Speak Brit, by Christopher J. Moore

Lost in Translation (on “untranslatable words”) by Ella Frances Sanders

Graham Chapman comes out. in “Ministry of Laughs”: by Michael Ian Black, p. 59, on So, Anyway … by John Cleese:

Along the way … there are plenty of snippets about the other Pythons, especially Graham Chapman, Cleese’s writing partner of 20 years, who died in 1989. Cleese has often spoken about how the Pythons were not especially close personally, but that does not seem to be the case for “Gra.” with whom he wrote and laughed and lunched, never suspecting that his dear friend was gay. “Graham always used to say that I was shocked when he came out. … Untrue. I was not ‘shocked,’ I was very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very surprised.”

The formerly funny. In Bruce Handy’s “Humor” section, on p. 65, a review of Christoper Miller’s American Cornball: A Laffopedic Guide to the Formerly Funny, on “things that used to make Americans laugh and nowadays don’t”.

The Princess Bride. From Neil Genzlinger on “True Love”, p. 73, about Cary Elwes and Joe Layden’s As You Wish, a book about the making of The Princess Bride.

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