"I collect words," confesses Ammon Shea, who is married to a former lexicographer, and the author of two previous books about obscure words (Depraved English and Insulting English). So obsessed is he with those weird and wonderful words that he read the Oxford English Dictionary from start to finish, with great excitement. To supplement his habit, he has worked as a street musician, gondolier and furniture mover. In pulling together what he sees as the most "spectacularly useful" and "beautifully useless" words for this volume, Shea endured headache and loss of sanity.
So what are those words? We have everything from nouns such as "agelastic" (a person who never laughs) to a "bully-scribbler" (a bullying writer), by way of verbs such as "induratise" (to harden the heart – both figuratively and literally), adjectives such as "osculable" (able to be kissed), and "xenogenesis" (offspring that does not resemble its parents).
Shea finds reading dictionaries "a delightful mix of comfort and anticipation" – and this, too, is the experience felt by the reader of this entertaining book, which is at root one person's celebration of his love of language.