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Review: Lucifer's Dictionary of the American Language

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Most of us do not have the time or the inclination to mull over the appalling manner in which the English language has been massacred and we enthusiastically accept such expressions as "gonna," which according to Burton h. Wolfe's Lucifer's Dictionary of the American Language means "a word which was invented long ago by someone who lost the ability to say 'going to,' and which has gained increasingly widespread approval and acceptance to the point that almost all Americans use it."

Wolfe has devoted fifteen years of his life in jotting down these words, terms and phrases that have crept into our vernacular and he has provided us with a side-splitting book that ingeniously demonstrates how these terms are used by most Americans in a language, as he mentions in his introduction, is supposed to be but is not the same as English.

Wolfe vividly employs satire to get his point across, and as he mentioned to me in our interview, by using satire his aim is to demolish standard applications to words that mean something entirely different from the way they are generally used, to provide the true meaning of them, and to add iconoclastic commentary.

There is a great deal of fascinating material in Lucifer's Dictionary of the American Language including the history of the board-game Monopoly and numerous hilarious definitions. As an example, actors according to Wolfe are anyone or everyone, but especially individuals in positions of leadership.

If you have not as yet figured out what the term government means, you may find Wolfe's description quite enlightening, as he asserts that it is a racket based on taxes that are levied to pay for itself and its head racketeers, who use the money in figuring out ways to make sure everything goes wrong so they can raise more money.

Lucifer's Dictionary of the American Language crackles with energy with its delicious quick-wittedness. Moreover, Wolfe has done an commendable job in bringing to our attention how the media, as well as the Government and American business enterprises, manipulate the public with misleading terms in order to sell us a product or convince us of the righteousness of a particular action.
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Although Wolfe is a versatile author of numerous articles and books, his writing here is with a great deal of creativity and freshness where he effectively succeeds in striking just the right balance between entertainment and fact, too much and too little detail, tomfoolery and seriousness, while at the same time injecting a great deal of philosophical insight without being too sophistic or cynical.

Reviewer: Norm Goldman, Editor Bookpleasures.com


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Norm Goldman is the Editor of the book reviewing and author interviewing site, bookpleasures.com. He is also the Editor of the travel site, sketchandtravel.com, where his artist wife, Lily and Norm meld words with art focusing on romantic (more...)
 

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