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Monday, May 23, 2016

Anne & Mark: Anagrams, Palindromes Or Acrostics?

"The Secret Life of Words" - a CD series from the Great Courses series - is a game changer for me as an instructor, a word nerd, and a recovering judgaholic. I love how instructor Dr. Anne Curzan from the University of Michigan ends each lecture asking listeners to consider provocative items she will cover at the start of the next lecture. For example, when you hear the word "ask" pronounced "aks" what is your gut reaction? OK, how do you pronounce the word "prescription"? My family is not going to be happy when I next bring this stuff up in conversation.

Curzan's careful avoidance of culturally-laden judgments is refreshing and convincing and her reach as a scholar - like all the lecturers I've encountered via the Great Courses - is inspiring. I've already decided to re-read "The Etymologicon", Mark Forsyth's 2011 "circular stroll through the hidden connections of the English language" right after I finish listening to the final lecture in Curzan's series. I wonder who would win more if these two were regular Scrabble opponents. Who would finish the Saturday NY Times crossword faster more often? Which word games does each enjoy?

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