Random House: Bringing You the Best in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Children's Books
Newletters and Alerts

Buy now from Random House

See more online stores - The Life of Language

The Life of Language

The fascinating ways words are born, live & die

Written by Sol SteinmetzAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Sol Steinmetz and Barbara Ann KipferAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Barbara Ann Kipfer


List Price: $14.99


On Sale: January 11, 2012
Pages: 400 | ISBN: 978-0-307-49646-1
Published by : Random House Reference Diversified
The Life of Language Cover

Share & Shelve:

  • Add This - The Life of Language
  • Email this page - The Life of Language
  • Print this page - The Life of Language
This book has no tags.
You can add some at Library Thing.


If time travelers from the nineteenth century dropped in on us, our strange vocabulary would shock them just as much as our TVs, cars, and computers. Society changes, and so does its word stock. The Life of Language reveals how pop culture, business, technology, and other forces of globalization expand and enrich the English language, forming thousands of new words every year. In this fascinating and jargon-free guide, lexicographers Kipfer and Steinmetz reconstruct the births of thousands of words, including infantries, poz, mobs, Soho, dinks, choo choos, frankenfoods, LOL, narcs and perps.

· A word lover’s guide to etymology, written in a fun, informal, and accessible style
· An excellent resource for vocabulary building; a word's root helps readers understand its meaning
· Beautifully packaged paperback with French flaps

From the Trade Paperback edition.
Sol Steinmetz|Barbara Ann Kipfer

About Sol Steinmetz

Sol Steinmetz - The Life of Language
SOL STEINMETZ, a well-known lexicographer, has published more than thirty-five dictionaries and reference books, including the recent Semantic Antics: How and Why Words Change Meaning. He lives in New Rochelle, New York.

About Barbara Ann Kipfer

Barbara Ann Kipfer - The Life of Language
Lexicographer Barbara Ann Kipfer holds a Ph.D. and an M.Phil in linguistics from England's University of Exeter, and is a pioneer in electronic lexical systems. She has designed and assembled lexicographic references and conducted lexicographic researches for many clients. She is a member of the Dictionary Society of North America, the Association of Computational Linguistics, and the European Association for Lexicography.


The Life of Language, subtitled “the fascinating ways words are born, live and die,” by Sol Steinmetz and Barbara Ann Kipfer (Random House trade paperback, $17). This scholarly but easy-to-breeze-through introduction to the world of words, written by a pair of crack lexicographers (Sol is a longtime mentor of On Language), ranks as the linguistic bargain of the year.
From baby talk to back-formation, from minting new words to functional shift, the subjects are treated with amusing erudition. The chapter on reduplication – “flip-flopping higgledy-piggledy through the riffraff” – differentiates rhyming compounds like bigwig, hotshot, ragtag, sci-fi from repetitions called tautonyms, such as bye-bye, so-so, rah-rah, as well as from ricochet words in which the repeated element is modified: chit-chat, roly-poly, shilly-shally.
They reveal the source of the “schm-/shm- reduplication,” from the Yiddish koyfn, shmoyfn, “To buy, not to buy, who cares?” This construction led to the adoption in English of fancy-schmancy to mean “pretentious” and to the jocular derogation of a host of words and names (“Oedipus, schmoedipus – as long as he loves his mother”). Boinng!
--William Safire, The New York Times, December 3, 2006

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Your E-Mail Address
send me a copy

Recipient's E-Mail Address
(multiple addresses may be separated by commas)

A personal message: