Words are wonderful, and etymology strikes me as one of the most fascinating subjects. Here is a new book from Roy Blount: Alphabet Juice: The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret Parts, Tinctures, Tonics, and Essences; With Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory.

(And I thought some of our titles were long and unwieldly!) Blount writes:

To me, letters have always been a robust medium of sublimation. …
We’re in the midst of a bunch of letters, and if you’re like me, you
feel like a pig in mud. What a great word mud is. And muddle, and
muffle, and mumble. … You know the expression “Mum’s the word.” The word mum is a representation of lips pressed together. … The great majority of languages start the word for “mother” with an m sound. The word mammal comes from the mammary gland. Which comes from baby talk: mama. To sound like a grownup, we refine mama into mother; the Romans made it mater, from which: matter. And matrix. Our word for the kind of animal we are, and our word for the stuff that everything is made of, and our word for a big cult movie all derive from baby talk.

What are we saying when we say mmmm? We are saying yummy. In the pronunciation of which we move our lips the way nursing babies move theirs. The fact that we can spell something that fundamental, and
connect it however tenuously to mellifluous and manna and milk and me (see M), strikes me as marvelous.

Wow! I love this stuff. This book comes out Oct. 14th. I’m going to have to get this one.

And I really like this cover—striking, simple, clean (despite the splashed juice), and a good way to deal with the long subtitle. So what do you think that is? Welches, or Pom?

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