Tuesday, May 12, 2009

New Today: The Whatchmacallit by Danny Danziger and Mark McKrum

You know, you could probably go through your whole life and never know what a tittle is. Or a toorie. Or a caruncula. But with the publication of The Whatchamacallit (Hyperion), you can discover what they are. Those, and a few dozen other common objects with uncommon names you couldn't care less about.

But should you care? Or, more to the point, shouldn't you? That's why authors Danny Danziger and Mark McKrum collected the stories behind a whole mess of things you might never bother to consider. But I think readers of January Magazine’s brother-in-crime, The Rap Sheet, want to to know that a scarpetta is the hunk of bread you use to wipe gravy or sauce from your plate. And I think, as one who eats breakfast, you want to know that fines are the crumbs at the bottom of a cereal box.

And speaking of breakfast, did you know that those little stringy bits between a banana and its peel have their own name?! Yep. They’re phloem bundles. And that bit of punctuation in which a question mark is immediately followed by an exclamation point? It's called an interrobang.

In The Whatchamacallit, you’ll find dozens of treasures such as these, each described with certain degrees of gravitas, albeit with the authors’ tongues shoved deeply into their cheeks. Some of the essays are short and sweet, others venture further, becoming mini-treatises on topics that somehow connect to the word in question. It’s essential reading for anyone who loves words ... and if you're reading this, that means you.

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