Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Painted Word (Phil Cousineau)

The Painted Word
Phil Cousineau
Viva Editions
Nonfiction, Language/Reference
**+ (Bad/Okay)

DESCRIPTION: The English language offers a vast palette of colors for speakers and writers, yet most only use a scant handful of tired, drab hues. Even ordinary words often have extraordinary origins, making them more than mere gray smears on the literary canvas. Logophile Phil Cousineau shares many of his favorites here, with notes on origins and quotes demonstrating usage, along with paintings by Gregg Chadwick.

REVIEW: I've been known to lose myself in dictionaries, distracted by oddball terms and words, so this looked like an enjoyable read. As promised, Cousineau presents many obscure and interesting words... and several not-so-obscure and not-so-interesting words. It often feels like he's more interested in clever alliteration and wordplay than providing the promised information about each entry. Several of the quotes fail to utilize the mentioned word or term (the entry on "galore" quotes an actress mentioning the James Bond character Pussy Galore), and I question his knowledge of pop culture. If the author messes up information that a quick Google search can provide, how am I to trust him on more esoteric topics, such as the often-twisted trail of words through the English language's long history? As the book wore on, I found myself reading simply to reach the end, not for the joy of discovering new words. Many entries also include paintings by Gregg Chadwick, but these add little to the experience, never quite capturing the essence of the word they claimed to accompany. (They also looked dull on my Kindle's eInk screen... and no better on my Nook color tablet running the Kindle app, which showed them in grayscale despite the artist waxing poetic on the cinnabar reds and lapis blues he employed in their creation. Maybe the paintings shouldn't have been included in the eBook edition at all, if color wasn't an option.) While I always enjoy being introduced to new (or old, as the case may be) words, I found myself too distracted and annoyed by the presentation and uneven quality of the entries, an annoyance that cost it the half-star it almost earned for some of the truly beautiful gems it brought to light.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Mrs. Byrne's Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words (Josefa Heifetz Byrne) - My Review
Word Watch: A Writer's Guide to the Slippery, Sneaky and Otherwise Tricky (Patricia McLinn) - My Review
Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language - Amazon link

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