ABSURD WORDS

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Steering (to the disappointment, no doubt, of much of her potential audience) clear of curses and sexual slang, Lazar compiles a generous glossary of uncommon words that pack a big punch. Why, for instance, just wander around the mall when you can gallivant with a frenemy? Shop for gewgaws and gimcracks? Chow down on Frankenfood to keep from getting hangry? Digestibly, if often arbitrarily, arranged in small groups beneath broad sections like “G.O.A.T.” for superlatives and “All the Feels” for expressing highs and lows, each entry comes with pronunciation, part of speech, a one-line (usually) definition, and a sample sentence. Individual notes on the cultures or languages from which borrowed selections come are hit or miss, but the author does tuck in occasional linguistic summary charts plus, more often, sidebar etymologies, usage histories, and short tallies of anagrams, eggcorns, mondegreens, and like flimflammery. As further inspiration to level up in talk and texts, she closes by inviting readers to invent their own portmanteaus or “crashwords,” as did that unexcelled master of neologisms Roald Dahl, and see if any stick. Mayhall’s colorful and playful cartoon vignettes add to the fun and show human characters with diverse skin tones.

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