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Posted by ESC on July 18, 2000

In Reply to: Books posted by ESC on July 17, 2000

: : : Hi,

: : : A while back I posted the message below. I can't believe that none of you word and phrase lovers have a favorite reference book. A number of them have been mentioned in the past, in earlier threads. But since few of us can find these books, except by special order, it isn't possible for people like me to compare them by sitting in the bookstore and leafing through. So, please help out! Offer an opinion about which is the 'all-round' best. Just an opinion...

: : : Original message: Is there a single good reference book that you could recommend for colorful 20th century American phrases? I'm thinking of something that might delve back into earlier decades of the century, too.

: : : Also, does the book you have in mind mainly cover longer phrases, or does it include two and three word slang too? Thanks...

: : : Patty

: : Patty,

: : In view view the Oxford English Dictinary is the best reference, but as you mentioned specifically American phrases the Morris and Hendrikson books listed are both good. They include single words as well as phrases/sayings.

: : Gary

My original list with prices. Some of the more expensive books (that I bought in hardback) are now available in paperback. And that's a good thing.

"A Hog on Ice" (1948, Harper & Row) and "Heavens to Betsy" (1955, Harper & Row) by Charles Earle Funk. This is one in a series of four books (two mostly sayings and two words/phrases) by Mr. Funk. All four are now available in one volume -- 2107 Curious Word Origins, Sayings & Expressions from White Elephants to Song Dance, $16.99.
"Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988). $26.60. Words and phrases.

"Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996). Now available in paperback for $13.96. Sayings.

"Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Fact on File, New York, 1997) Now available in paperback for $19.96. Words and phrases.

"Listening to America" by Stuart Berg Flexner (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982). I picked this one up at a remainder store. "I Hear America Talking" by Stuart Berg Flexner (Von Nostrand Reinhold Co., New York, 1976). I got this one second-hand online. These books are great. They have a little bit of everything.

"Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Volume 1, A-G" by J.E. Lighter, Random House, New York, 1994. And, of course H-O. $45 per. Although I found Vol. 1 for $10 at the aforementioned remainder store, I paid full price for the second. These volumes cover the waterfront -- phrases and words.