Dabbling in Dewey: the 400’s

February 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

So, what will you find if you stumble into the 400’s section of your local library? Well, pretty much just language books. But there’s more to it than meets the eye. I’ve highlighted a few winners here today, but here are a few other specific topics you’ll find:

  • Cross-language dictionaries (English to Spanish, Spanish to Arabic, etc.)
  • ASL (American Sign Language) books
  • Grammar and writing guides
  • Materials about “dead” languages like Latin and Hellenic (depending on the size of your library)
  • Miscellaneous word fun

Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors (Bill Bryson)

Sometimes, when I’m writing, odd reference questions come up: is it indexes or indices? Should I capitalize ‘hollandaise sauce’? It’s times like this I appreciate Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors. I found it in my library’s 400’s section, but in reality it’s more of a reference book–sort of a cross between an almanac, dictionary, and citation guide zeroed in for the needs of all types of writers (and readers who enjoy nerding out to grammar and similar pursuits).

More info here.

You Say Tomato (R.W. Jackson)

I admit: there’s a miniature linguist living in my head. Every time I pronounce a peculiar-looking word, the little linguist raises her eyebrows and says, “Are you saying that right? Are you sure?”

Maybe I’m just insane. Oh well. But this book was a fun read for me, and taught me the correct pronunciation for several dubious words, including maraschino (it’s not what you think!). A fun read.

More info here.

Ballyhoo, Buckaroo, and Spuds (Michael Quinion)

This book is like Mythbusters for words. Plenty of people have probably heard folktales that surround the supposed origins of their favorite words and phrases (hot dogs, anyone?), but are they true? You’ll play detective alongside Michael Quinion and get to the bottom of the false stories about our favorite words (and learn some cool tidbits in the process.)

More info here.

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