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Book Title: The Secret Lives of Words|
The author of the book: Paul West
ISBN 13: 9780156014090
Edition: Mariner Books
Date of issue: July 10th 2001
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 15.72 MB
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Reader ratings: 4.6
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Word enthusiasts will find trivia and treasure" (Kirkus Reviews) in this collection of unusual etymologies authored by an unmatched prose stylist and fabulous wordsmith.
Over the centuries, thousands of our words have been so twisted, tangled, misused, and muddled that their original meanings have been obscured. You'll be surprised to learn that table napkins were once made of and referred to as asbestos, a cloud was once a hill, and lasagna could be
literally translated as chamberpot pasta. In The Secret Lives of Words, acclaimed author and stylist Paul West fulfills a personal odyssey to seek out the elusive roots of these and a few hundred other of his favorite words, from abracadabra to zoot suit. Derived from handwritten notebooks, West chronicles the tortuous travels of words across continents and through cultures in this Antiques Road Show approach to etymology. A delight in both form and content, West's collection will capture the attention of word enthusiasts, speakers, writers, thinkers, and readers around the globe.
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Read information about the author
Paul West (February 23, 1930) was an English-born novelist, literary historian and poet, the author of 24 novels, who lived in America since the early 1960s. He resided in upstate New York with his wife, the writer, poet and well-known naturalist Diane Ackerman, until his death in 2015. Paul, still remembered with affection by his old colleagues and friends in England as a big, jolly man, was born in Eckington, which is near (and now considered a part of) Sheffield in South Yorkshire, but was during West’s childhood a Derbyshire village associated with the famous literary Sitwells of Renishaw.
Paul was honoured with the American Academy of Arts and Letters Literature Award (1985), the Lannan Prize for Fiction (1993), the Grand Prix Halperine-Kaminsky Award (1993), and three Pushcart Prizes (1987, 1991, 2003). He was also a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a New York Public Library Literary Lion (1987), and a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters 1996, France).
His parents, Alfred and Mildred, really cared for books, and created an environment which ensured that young Paul inherited a great passion for literature, which was enhanced when he went from his native village to study first at Oxford University in England and later at Columbia University in America. He never lived in England again after going to Columbia, and in later years Paul was involved with other US universities in teaching roles, notably Pennsylvania State University.
Paul West’s novels have included: ‘A Quality of Mercy’ (1961); ‘Tenement of Clay’ (1965); ‘Alley Jaggers’ (1966); ‘I'm Expecting to Live Quite Soon’ (1970); ‘Bela Lugosi's White Christmas’ (1972); ‘The Very Rich Hours of Count von Stauffenberg’ (1980); ‘Rat Man of Paris’ (1986); ‘The Women of Whitechapel and Jack the Ripper’ (1991); and ‘OK: The Corral, the Earps and Doc Holliday’ (2000).
His non-fiction has included the autobiographical ‘I, Said the Sparrow’, a delightful essay on his Eckington childhood; ‘The Growth of the Novel’ (1959), ‘The Modern Novel’ (in 2 vols, 1963); ‘Robert Penn Warren’ (1964); ‘Words for a Deaf Daughter’ (1969); ‘A Stroke of Genius: Illness and Self-discovery’ (1995); and the remarkable ‘The Shadow Factory’ (2008), the aphasic memoir he dictated with such struggle and resolve –it brings tears to the eyes and admiration to the heart, as we are reminded in reading it of the courage of this man. It is a ‘must-read’ in the context of the terrible stroke he suffered in 2003. Paul’s wife, Diane, also wrote about that stroke and its consequences in her book ‘One Hundred Names for Love: A Stroke, a Marriage and the Language of Healing’. Paul’s poetry collections include ‘Poems’ (1952), ‘The Spellbound Horses’ (1960), and ‘The Snow Leopard’ (1964).
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