A good book is a wonderful present. I stopped by Shana’s a couple of days ago, and as I took my coat off she casually said, as if it were no big deal, gesturing toward the couch: there’s a present for you there. And there was this magical book, sitting on the sofa cushion like any other little thing. Only it isn’t any other little thing. It’s the most enchanting book ever. Fifteen thousand useful phrases. You may have noticed that I have a thing for words. I also have a thing for odd reference books. And people who can turn a phrase. So this book? SHAZAM. I spent the next several hours reading word pairings and phrases aloud. I changed my regular Twitter bio to include the phrase “a well-bred mixture of boldness and courtesy.” Then I spent some time this morning setting up a Twitter account so I can tweet the whole entire book, because the world needs to know all about the fifteen thousand useful phrases, subtitled “A practical handbook of pertinent expressions, striking similes, literary, commercial, conversational and oratorical terms, for the embellishment of speech and literature, and the improvement of the vocabulary of those persons who read, write and speak English.” By Grenville Kleiser, Funk & Wagnalls, 1917. It’s hilarious and touching and altogether brilliant. SHAZAM.
“The choice word, the correct phrase, are instruments that may reach the heart, and awake the soul if they fall upon the ear in melodious cadence…Language is a temple in which the human soul is enshrined, and…it grows out of life…”