Whittling away the stack of review copies (see this post), here are some more language-related ones:
1) Alliteration in Culture, edited by Jonathan Roper: I apologize for the fact that I’m waxing enthusiastic about a book that Amazon is selling for $85.00 (22 new from $70.75, 10 used from $71.00!), but maybe they’ll come out with a paperback at a more reasonable price? Anyway, check out the table of contents at the publisher’s page: “Love, Silver and the Devil: Alliteration in English Place-Names,” “Dealing Dooms: Alliteration in the Old Frisian Laws,” “Alliteration in the Þrymskviða and in Chamisso’s German Translation,” “Alliteration in Iceland: From the Edda to Modern Verse and Pop Lyrics,” “Alliteration in Somali Poetry,” even “Alliteration in Sign Language Poetry”… and for our Mongolian friend read, there’s “Alliteration in Mongol Poetry,” with quotes from everything from the Secret History (qoluqat qo’oǰiǰu’u/ šilüget šiberiǰü’ü “The chicks have shed their down,/ The lambs have grown up!”) to Inǰannaši’s nineteenth-century ars poetica, Buryat proverbs, and modern poetry (Yawuuxulan’s 1977 Šüleg min’ xüleg min’ “My Verse, My Steed”). This is one of those books I didn’t know I needed until I saw it.
2) How to Read a Word, by Elizabeth Knowles: The OUP publisher’s page says it “offers clear guidance on how to explore the various aspects of words, with chapters on pronunciation, spelling, date of first use, etymology, regional distribution, and meaning, all spiced with intriguing examples. For instance, Knowles offers a fascinating account of how the word ‘scientist’ originated in a public debate in 1834… Knowles also discusses the ever-expanding range of sources available to the curious word-hunter, from general and specialist dictionaries to websites devoted to areas of language, from Project Gutenberg and Google Book Search to various online newspaper archives.”
3) Shakespeare’s Common Prayers: The Book of Common Prayer and the Elizabethan Age, by Daniel Swift: “Societies and entire nations draw their identities from certain founding documents, whether charters, declarations, or manifestos. The Book of Common Prayer figures as one of the most crucial in the history of the English-speaking peoples. … In Shakespeare’s Common Prayers, Daniel Swift makes dazzling and original use of this foundational text, employing it as an entry-point into the works of England’s most celebrated writer. Though commonly neglected as a source for Shakespeare’s work, Swift persuasively and conclusively argues that the Book of Common Prayer was absolutely essential to the playwright.”


  1. thank you, LH! i needed that most maybe today, holidays are always pretty lonely and too much idle time

  2. “Societies and entire nations draw their identities from certain founding documents, whether charters, declarations, or manifestos.” I doubt that in general they do. But I dare say that post hoc various politicians or clergymen would like to claim that they do because that implies that action by politicians or clergymen is oh so important and certainly more important than action by … just people, by soldiers, by explorers, by traders, and so on.
    Writers who make a living by commenting on politicians will tend to accept this erroneous view. Schoolteachers like some document to point at, so they might too.

  3. Jeffry House says

    Add lawyers to the professions which have a tendency to point to Constitutions as society-shaping documents. While there is always some wiggle room when construing any document, it does seem that The Bill of Rights has had some influence over time.
    And did the Declaration of Independence, with its 1776 statement that “all men are created equal” have no influence on the civl war, or on the USA today?

  4. Dearieme, I think that’s because your country has not had a revolution or been conquered or colonized since 1688, before there was a fashion for such things. Few, if any, other countries are in that situation.

  5. Any person who likes collecting words cannot but feel interested in Elizabeth Knowles’ How to Read a Word.

  6. I agree with dearie. Other than the US no country is dominated by its national constitution to the extent that it would rather have half the population shoot the other half before screwing with the holy Bill of Rights.

  7. Did you get out of the wrong side of bed again, Crown?
    Anyway, it’s not like we USians always know what we mean when we speak of our rights. Last year the Massachusetts town of Marlborough passed a law against using bad words in public (apparently prompted by a troublesome amount of foul-mouthed insult-shouting by teenagers on Main Street) and got first widely ridiculed and then told by the state Attorney General that this local ordinance appeared unconstitutional. At that point I remember seeing some town resident quoted as complaining that they ought to pay more attention to the rights of decent law-abiding citizens. I can imagine how he felt, but I wonder what “rights” he had in mind.

  8. empty: How about the right not to have your peace disturbed. Or has the law against disturbing the peace gone by the board?

  9. marie-lucie says

    iakon, but this right is not one of the federally guaranteed ones. The US constitution does not go into every single detail of people’s lives (fortunately!).

  10. I was indeed out of bed on the wrong side.

  11. J.W. Brewer says

    I thought dearieme was from Scotland, which experienced a rather dramatic change in its mode of government post-1688 (although I guess it’s controversial as to whether the events of 1707 et seq. are best described as conquest, colonization, or something else). I’m not sure where you’d put Scotland on the continuum of nations in terms of how much or how little their nationhood and self-identification is bound up with particular canonical texts. One faction of (rather heavily armed and politically powerful) Scots so disliked the particular canonical text referenced above (the Book of Common Prayer) that they started a war over it (the so-called Bishops’ War circa 1638) but that same faction was commonly called Covenanters as a reference to their own identity-defining text. I suppose those modern-day Scots who treat soccer games as occasions for sectarian religious strife are carrying on the Covenanter tradition in a certain sense, but perhaps they do not think of themselves as textually-defined.

  12. J.W., you are quite right, but 1707 is still pre-written-political-document.

  13. Bookfinder says that used copies of Alliteration in Culture can be had for $32 including shipping from the UK. Still too much for me.

  14. That’s too bad; it’s a delightful book. I guess the perceived market is so small no publisher is interested in trying to cater to it.

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