Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Don't You Love Words?

I admit it - I’m addicted to words. I collect them like seashells, picking them up and stashing them in my electronic pocket for safekeeping. One day I’ll have time to bring them all out, spread them on my desk, and listen to the lovely cacophony. Some day.

For now, I enjoy them as they appear on my laptop’s screen. Yesterday it was “blurb.” Writers and those in publishing use it all the time. Eavesdrop on author conversations and you’ll hear things like, “You got Laura Lippman to blurb your book? Wow!” Translation: The very talented and elegant author of award-winning mysteries, Laura Lippman, has written a laudatory description for the cover of that lucky author’s book. Blurbs help sell books, and snagging a top name is a coup.

I always assumed blurb was a shortened version of some other word, much as “blog” is short of “web log.” But yesterday I learned it was made up by author Gelett Burgess. He defined it as “self-praise; to make a noise like a publisher.” Burgess wrote many fiction and non-fiction books, but was best known – to his dismay – for the “Purple Cow” poem.

If you’re a word lover you may have heard or read The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor. I was delighted to learn you can get it delivered every day to your desktop, complete with gems like “blurb.”

And then there’s “susurration”….


Anonymous said...

Alex's favorite words:


Peg Silloway said...

OK, Smart Alex - how about a few definitions to go with those choice words?

Anonymous said...

Definitions? I just like the way they sound.

A plenipoteniary is a senior statesman empowered with full diplomatic authorities. Such as when President Clinton sent former President Carter to North Korea in the mid-90's to discuss IAEA inspections.

The other three are statistical terms. Stochastic is a branch of mathematical modeling that pursposefully incorporates indeterminant variables. Asymptotic describes a particular mathematical distribution (namely, exponential distributions are asymptotic). Heteroskedasticity describes a set of statistical distributions with different variances.

Of course, I've already added Margaritaceous to my list.