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The Joy of Lex

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Now, WB television aficionados may think this book refers to Lex Luther from Smallville fame…and oh! if only it did. He is a favorite character of mine– that bald head just begs for rubbing!

But…no, this book is not about Lex Luther– but it does have everything to do with the Lexicon of life: words. The Joy of Lex by Gyles Brandreth is a book about having fun with words. A delightful romp in the hay with your favorite…wordsmith, be that a she or a he, or both– who am I to judge?

It’s an old book…if you consider anything produced in 1980 to be old…which I don’t but…one must bend to the will of public opinion and in this new millennium, anything created before 1990 is probably old. Covered with mold, no doubt– according to the general populace. In fact, glancing down the copyright page produces an even earlier date– one I hesitate to share– lest it label me — but, one must be honest: the book in its original format was printed in…I hope you are sitting down…1948! Well before most of you were born! My goodness…that’s even before I was born!

Never mind. This is a fun, happy, wondrous book. The sub-title gives it away, “How to have Fun with 860,341,500 words.” So, let’s have some fun.

Brandreth calls himself a “word freak” in an attempt to explain why he wrote this book. But, really now, we can’t leave that alone. Wordsmith is more appropriate, being this is a new millennium, and all. Perhaps in his day people who played with words were freaks. One can only wonder.

No, he’s a wordsmith and a darn good one, at that. He explains the origin of the crossword puzzle on page 12, explaining that this “epoch-making puzzle appeared on December 21, 1913” in the Sunday edition of New York World. In 1924, Simon and Schuster published The Crossword Puzzle Book, their first publishing venture…which was considered a risky venture–but which sold over 40,000 volumes, and spawned hundreds more just like it.

Chapter 38 is an especially fun read. It deals with “Graffiti–the Greatest.” Brandreth says, “There is no form of literature so old or so universal as graffiti.” Then, he goes on to share a bit with the reader. For instance (these are HIS writings, not mine…and I neither endorse them nor refute them, I merely share them):

Stop air pollutions: quit breathing.
Lower the age of puberty.
Up with miniskirts.
Down with hotpants.
Don’t hate yourself in the morning…sleep till noon.
Unemployment helps stretch your coffee break.
You think Oedipus had a problem–Adam was Eve’s mother!
Eggheads of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your yolks.

All right. Enough of that!

Let’s move on to “Repartee.” Quick and witty quips to amuse friends and family. And to cut your enemies to the quick! (from pages 95-101)

Edna Ferber (Pulitzer prize winning author) is purported to have had this conversation with a hotel clerk:

Clerk: “I beg your pardon, Miss Ferber, but is there a gentleman in your room?”

To which Miss Ferber replied, “I don’t know. Wait a minute and I’ll ask him.”

A reporter once asked the great Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi for his full address. “I think,” said Verdi, “that Italy will be sufficient.”

An infatuated young man was sending his girlfriend a telegram which read, “Ozzy loves his Woozy Woozy Woozy Woozy Woozy Woozy.”

“You can have another ‘Woozy’ without it costing any more,” said the post-office clerk.

“No, thanks,” replied the young man. “I think that would sound rather silly.”

??????? (reviewer’s note only…not included in book.)

Zsa Zsa Gabor, when asked how many husbands she had had, replied, “You mean apart from my own?”

And so on…page after page of eye-blinking repartee.

There is more delight and laughter in this one book than I have found in dozens of others– which purport to be written for laughter, while Brandreth’s book is written for– the joy of lex, of course! When I’m at a loss for a quote, or something silly, or just a comment on the English language, I pull out this book and it saves me–I never have to doubt that it will.

I leave you with one of Brandreth’s suggestions for a sleepless night: repeat after me,
“Wacky Walter Wiesman was Warsaw’s wittiest waltzing waiter. When Walter wooed women, wow!”

Good night!

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About Jane

  • Indeed!It’s a true Joy!

  • What a witty post! Walter the waltzing waiter has nothing on this writer…

    You make me long for the Joy of Lex!