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One-letter Words, A Dictionary [Hardcover]

Craig Conley

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Book Description

Oct. 20 2005
Merriam-Webster, move over!Until now, no English dictionary ever found the fun or the fascination in revealing the meanings of letters. One-Letter Words, a Dictionary illuminates the more than 1,000 surprising definitions associated with each letter in the English alphabet. For instance, Conley uncovers seventy-six distinct uses of the letter X, the most versatile, most printed letter in the English language. Using facts, figures, quotations, and etymologies, the author provides a complete and enjoyable understanding of the one-letter word.Conley teaches us that each letter's many different meanings span multiple subjects, including science -- B denotes a blood type and also is a symbol for boron on the periodic table of elements -- and history -- in the Middle Ages, B was branded on a blasphemer's forehead. With the letter A, he reminds us that A is not only a bra size, but also a musical note.

One-Letter Words, a Dictionary is a rich, thought-provoking, and curious compendium of the myriad definitions attributed to each letter of the English alphabet. This book is the essential desk companion, gift, or reference volume for a vast array of readers: wordsmiths, puzzle lovers, teachers, students, librarians, and armchair linguists will all find One-Letter Words, a Dictionary a must-have.

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From Publishers Weekly

Anyone who thinks the letter "a" alone can mean only one thing is sorely mistaken; Conley, a linguist, editor and textbook coauthor, enumerates at least fifty ways it has been used, including as a representation of "waking consciousness" and as the classification for the lightest weight of sandpaper. Conley, who has compiled several other quirky dictionaries, became a sort of cult hero when he put an early edition of this one online, where it garnered a huge following among people surfing the web for the odd and amusing. For each letter, Conley gives dozens of meanings, which he often supports with citations from literature, science and pop culture. The definitions are arranged in groups like "shapes and sizes," military and "people, places, things," some of which are common to most letters and others that pertain to only one, like "exertions of power," which has two entries under "d." Conley's own explanations are brief; the bulk of the book is taken up by quotations where he found a particular usage, and these come from sources as diverse as Joyce's Ulysses, Winnie-the-Pooh and the American Medical Association. Many of the instances Conley refers to are arcane or technical, and he does a cursory job of explaining the project and justifying his methods, so some entries will leave readers baffled. (Consider "v-bob": "a strong frame shaped like an isosceles triangle, turning on a pivot at its axis, and used as a bell crank to change the direction of a main pump rod.") Even so, anyone fascinated by language (and especially fans of word games like Scrabble) will be thrilled with this unique resource.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Craig Conley is an established teacher and author with a long history of writing for schools and public libraries. He is currently a consulting editor for McGraw-Hill and Globe Fearon publishers. For nine years he was an instructor of composition, literature, and study skills at universities and community colleges in Tennessee, Virginia, and Florida. His articles have appeared in magazines such as Verbatim, Mothering, Mnemosyne Journal, American Cage-Bird, and Home Education. Conley holds a B.S. in mass communications and an M.A. in English from Middle Tennessee State University.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply brilliant. Jan. 2 2006
By Uma Larson - Published on
I bought this book after hearing the author speak about it on NPR. I have since re-ordered and am online to re-order again as friends who found it on my coffee table could not put it down. It's far more than the clever concept even promises. The author essentially takes you on a journey through literature and you'll see words in an entirely new light.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Delightful Suprise! Jan. 8 2006
By judy-h - Published on
Can be enjoyed on so many levels. It is fun and scholarly. This is not a 'dry' little dictionary, but an adventure through facts you knew, but had forgotten ("E" is the Roman Numeral for 250); obvious, but hadn't thought about (how prominent the letter "E" is in our electronic world); or just didn't know (most of Emily Dickinson's poems begin with the word "I"). Like me, my friends are surprised at what an entertaining and thoughtful book Mr. Conley has written. Can't wait for his next one.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great gift!!! Oct. 24 2011
By R. Bakhtiari - Published on
Verified Purchase
I borrowed this book from a friend and realized there is much more to it than a once-through read. It is filled with great literary references, spun together by a clearly erudite scholar. I purchased my own and highly recommend it to anyone who has an appreciation for language and/or literature!! FIVE STARS are not enough!!
4.0 out of 5 stars useful Dec 14 2013
By eagle ford aggie - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Very useful and entertaining. Can.t wait for the next family scrabble game. No cheating allowed on the games here.sayanara Angola.

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