Thursday, December 09, 2004

Mark Morton, The Lover's Tongue: A Merry Romp Through the Language of Love and Sex, 2003.

Morton is a prof at the University of Winnipeg, and is the language columnist for CBC's Definitely Not the Opera. Herb recommended this book to me back at the end of May, and I stuck in a hold request then. Apparently, it's a popular book.

It's an odd book, really. I love etymology--from the Greek ετυμον (one who discourses) + λογος (words) = thinking about words--so I placed the hold back then, disagreeing with Herb's assessment of a sexual theme. The book is wonderful at exposing the play of words, the way they emerge, adapt, are played with, and are loved. It's fun because Morton obviously loves paying attention to where words come from, and because this is an area of the language where there are a lot of words, even if many of them are of quite recent coinage.

Where the book is lacking is that it's hard to sit down and to read it; it's a book with which the reader is best off dipping into, and enjoying piecemeal. Morton does advocate reading it a chapter at a time, and one might even prefer to read smaller chunks. I found myself smiling and being amused both at the stories behind some words and by Morton's own linguistic exuberance and love of language; for these reasons alone, it's a worthwhile read. I'm not sure, though, that it's one for which I'd pay: for me, it's excellent use of the HPL hold system.