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Our language is full of hundreds of quotations that are often cited but seldom confirmed. Ralph Keyes's The Quote Verifier considers not only classic misquotes such as "Nice guys finish last," and "Play it again, Sam," but more surprising ones such as "Ain't I a woman?" and "Golf is a good walk spoiled," as well as the origins of popular sayings such as "The opera ain't over till the fat lady sings," "No one washes a rented car," and "Make my day."
Keyes's in-depth research routinely confounds widespread assumptions about who said what, where, and when. Organized in easy-to-access dictionary form, The Quote Verifier also contains special sections highlighting commonly misquoted people and genres, such as Yogi Berra and Oscar Wilde, famous last words, and misremembered movie lines.
An invaluable resource for not just those with a professional need to quote accurately, but anyone at all who is interested in the roots of words and phrases, The Quote Verifier is not only a fascinating piece of literary sleuthing, but also a great read.
He also finds some fascinating patterns, such as that successful neologisms are as likely to be created by chance as by design. A remarkable number of new words were coined whimsically, originally intended to troll or taunt. Knickers, for example, resulted from a hoax; big bang from an insult. Casual wisecracking produced software, crowdsource, and blog. More than a few resulted from happy accidents, such as typos, mistranslations, and mishearing (bigly and buttonhole), or from being taken entirely out of context (robotics). Neologizers (a Thomas Jefferson coinage) include not just scholars and writers but cartoonists, columnists, children's book authors. Wimp originated with a book series, as did goop, and nerd from a book by Dr. Seuss. Coinages are often contested, controversy swirling around such terms as gonzo, mojo, and booty call. Keyes considers all contenders, while also leading us through the fray between new word partisans, and those who resist them strenuously. He concludes with advice about how to make your own successful coinage.
The Hidden History of Coined Words will appeal not just to word mavens but history buffs, trivia contesters, and anyone who loves the immersive power of language.
No wonder. The theme of Is There Life After High School? – that what happened to us in high school’s hallways shapes the way we perceive the world thereafter – struck a resonant chord. So did its piquant flavor. “A delightful book, both insightful and fun,” raved one reviewer. “Frequently poignant, occasionally profound, and very funny,” wrote another. “Whether you were jock or bookworm, an ‘innie’ or an ‘outie,’ concluded a third, “you will relish the shock of recognition and, perhaps, furtively consult your yearbook.”
These accolades paid tribute to the hundreds of interviews author Ralph Keyes conducted with Americans famous and obscure, all the articles, books, and studies of adolescence he consulted, and the many reunions Keyes attended, from a fifth to a fiftieth. The sum of this research led him to conclude that “The teenager within never dies.”
Its many readers concurred. After it was published four decades ago, they continually told Ralph Keyes how much his book had helped them make sense of their lingering high school memories.
Time have changed, however, and an update is in order, one incorporating fresh content. That content ranges from recent studies of high school status systems to the teenage experience of contemporary figures such as Jennifer Aniston, Barack Obama, Bruce Springsteen, Amy Schumer, and Lady Gaga.
While featuring much new material, this update retains the basic themes of Is There Life After High School? Some things never change. As long as American teenagers attend high school, who’s popular, who isn’t, who goes to the prom, who stays home, who gets bullied, who does the bullying, who gets kissed, and who doesn’t, provide vivid, life-shaping memories for its graduates.
Such memories needn’t be a straitjacket, however. It’s often said that life after graduation is simply high school all over again. Not so, says Keyes. According to him it’s just as often the opposite. After graduation innies confront an “encore problem” as they struggle to replicate their high school status. By contrast, countless outies enjoy a sense of triumph by doing so much better after high school than the higher-status classmates who once tormented them.
As Keyes’s chapter on “Re-Uning” shows, this turning of the tables is on vivid display at high school reunions. Also on display, at later gatherings especially, is a spirit of reconciliation. Once freed from the demands of teenage status-seeking, many classmates re-discover each other in new ways, including the romantic, as Keyes shows in a delicious chapter titled “Now Can We? (Go All the Way).”
No wonder so many readers and reviewers found that in addition to being a comfort and an eye-opener, Is There Life After High School? is a great read.
A sweetheart of a book.
Deliciously titled . . . breezy . . . very good book.
Keyes brings back the sights and sounds, and most importantly, the feelings, of our high school experience.
There is a lot of nostalgia and fun in here – but this is a meaningful look at the impact of adolescence spent in a unique American institution.
As much social commentary as a book for word lovers, Euphemania is a lively and thought-provoking look at the power of words and our power over them.
An entertaining and informative book about the fashion and fads of language
Today's 18-year-olds may not know who Mrs. Robinson is, where the term "stuck in a groove" comes from, why 1984 was a year unlike any other, how big a bread box is, how to get to Peyton Place, or what the term Watergate refers to. I Love It When You Talk Retro discusses these verbal fossils that remain embedded in our national conversation long after the topic they refer to has galloped off into the sunset. That could be a person (Mrs. Robinson), product (Edsel), past bestseller (Catch-22), radio or TV show (Gangbusters), comic strip (Alphonse and Gaston), or advertisement (Where's the beef?) long forgotten. Such retroterms are words or phrases in current use whose origins lie in our past. Ralph Keyes takes us on an illuminating and engaging tour through the phenomenon that is Retrotalk—a journey, oftentimes along the timelines of American history and the faultlines of culture, that will add to the word-lover's store of trivia and obscure references.
"The phrase "drinking the Kool-Aid" is a mystery to young people today, as is "45rpm." Even older folks don't know the origins of "raked over the coals" and "cut to the chase." Keyes (The Quote Verifier) uses his skill as a sleuth of sources to track what he calls "retrotalk": "a slippery slope of puzzling allusions to past phenomena." He surveys the origins of "verbal fossils" from commercials (Kodak moment), jurisprudence (Twinkie defense), movies (pod people), cartoons (Caspar Milquetoast) and literature (brave new world). Some pop permutations percolated over decades: Radio's Take It or Leave It spawned a catch phrase so popular the program was retitled The $64 Question and later returned as TV's The $64,000 Question. Keyes's own book Is There Life After High School? became both a Broadway musical and a catch phrase. Some entries are self-evident or have speculative origins, but Keyes's nonacademic style and probing research make this both an entertaining read and a valuable reference work." --Publishers Weekly
"Dishonesty inspires more euphemisms than copulation or defecation. This helps desensitize us to its implications. In the post-truth era we don't just have truth and lies but a third category of ambiguous statements that are not exactly the truth but fall just short of a lie. Enhanced truth it might be called. Neo-truth. Soft truth. Faux truth. Truth lite."
Deception has become the modern way of life. Where once the boundary line between truth and lies was clear and distinct, it is no longer so. In the post-truth era, deceiving others has become a challenge, a game, a habit. High-profile dissemblers compete for news coverage, from journalists like Jayson Blair and professors like Joseph Ellis to politicians (of all stripes), executives, and "creative" accountants.
Research suggests that the average American tells multiple lies on a daily basis, often for no good reason. Not a finger-wagging scolding, The Post-Truth Era is a combination of Ralph Keyes's investigative journalism and solid science. The result is a spirited exploration of why we lie about practically everything and the consequences such casual dishonesty has on society.
American society has become permeated from top to bottom by deception. Its consequences for the nature of public discourse, media, business, literature, academia, and politics are profound. With dry humor, passionate fervor, and deep understanding, Ralph Keyes takes us on a tour of a world where truth and honesty are no longer absolutes but mutable, fluid concepts.
In 1889, the editor of the San Francisco Examiner, having accepted an article from Rudyard Kipling, informed the author that he should not bother to submit any more. "This isn't a kindergarten for amateur writers," the editor wrote. "I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language." A century later, John Grisham was turned down by sixteen agents before he found representation-and it was only after Hollywood showed an interest in The Firm that publishers began to take him seriously.
The anxiety of rejection is an inevitable part of any writer's development. In this book, Ralph Keyes turns his attention from the difficulty of putting pen to paper-the subject of his acclaimed The Courage to Write -to the frustration of getting the product to the public. Inspiration isn't nearly as important to the successful writer, he argues, as tenacity, and he offers concrete ways to manage the struggle to publish. Drawing on his long experience as a writer and teacher of writing, Keyes provides new insight into the mind-set of publishers, the value of an agent, and the importance of encouragement and hope to the act of authorial creation.
The Courage to Write is an invaluable book and essential reading for anyone who wishes to learn how to write well.
Katherine Anne Porter called courage "the first essential" for a writer. "I have to talk myself into bravery with every sentence," agreed Cynthia Ozick, "sometimes every syllable." E. B. White said he admired anyone who "has the guts to write anything at all."An author who has taught writing for more than thirty years,
In The Courage to Write, Ralph Keyes, an author who has taught writing for more than thirty years, assures us that anxiety is felt by writers at every level, especially when they dare to do their best. He describes the sequence of "courage points" through which all writers must pass, from the challenge of identifying a worthwhile project to the mixture of pride and panic they feel when examining a newly published book or article.
Keyes also offers specifics on how to root out dread of public "performance" and of the judgment of family and friends, make the best use of writers' workshops and conferences, and handle criticism of works in progress. Throughout, he includes the comments of many accomplished writers -- Pat Conroy, Amy Tan, Rita Dove, Isabel Allende, and others -- on how they transcended their own fears to produce great works.