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Brave New Words by Jeff Prucher
Review by Gayle Surrette
Oxford University Press, USA Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780195387063
Date: 13 March 2009 List Price $17.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Jeff Prucher's blog / Interview: Jeff Prucher / Show Official Info /

Brave New Words is first and foremost a dictionary. On the other hand, it's a brilliant time sink, entertaining in a geek sort of way, and an absolute necessity if you write, read, copy edit, proofread, or just plain enjoy words.

First published in April of 2007 as a hardcover, it won the Hugo in 2008 for Best Related Book. Brave New Words has now been released as a trade paperback. So, cost is lower, and for the word lovers among us, that makes it even harder to resist the urge to own this volume that has collected the words used by the fans, writers, and media, to entertain us in the genre.

When the book was first published, there didn't seem to be time to properly go through the book and write up a review. How do you review a dictionary anyway? I'm not a lexicographer and I don't understand the subtleties of how a dictionary is put together. However, I love words and finding out about them -- how they came to be and how they are used. Since its publication, I've been frequently picking up my copy of Brave New Words to find out whether a word was hyphenated, how it was most frequently spelled, and what it meant, so I could tell if it was being used correctly in whatever document I was working on.

I also found that every time I picked up the book I was in danger of losing time -- time spent finding what I was looking for, but then having some other word catch my eye, and then another, until finally I realized I needed to get back to work. In fact, I believe that the only drawback to having a copy of Brave New Words is that you'll find yourself mesmerized by the words that have been coined by the genre. Words that were first written by a science fiction author but are now a part of our everyday language: cyberspace (p. 31), dystopia (p. 39), egoboo (p. 49), esp (p. 51), galactic (p. 74), genetic engineer (p. 77), humanoid (p. 93), mainstream (p. 115), and terraformed (p. 235). The foray to find this list took longer than you'd think as I tried to pick words that, while associated with science fiction, are not commonly thought to be first used/created there.

If you work with words, if you love words, you'll find Brave New Words to be a necessary addition to your reference shelf, right along with your favorite dictionary and style guide.

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