Tuesday 21 December 2021

Book Review: The Illustrated Compendium of Weirdly Specific Words by Tyler Vendetti & Rebecca Pry (Non-Fiction)

Title: The Illustrated Compendium of Weirdly Specific Words
Author: Tyler Vendetti & Rebecca Pry
Publisher: Whalen Book Works
Publication Date: 2020
Format: Hardback
Genre: Non-Fiction
Source: Xmas Gift

The Illustrated Compendium of Weirdly Specific Words is an illustrated dictionary of the 300+ most specific words in the English language, along with their definitions, roots, and (hilarious) usage quotes!

Have you ever been lying in your bed, surrounded by crumbs and wrappers, feasting on your fifth pop tart and thought, “I wish there was a word for this”? Well, there is! Accubationis - the practice of eating and drinking while lying down. The English language is populated by many words that have a regular place in everyday conversation, and The Illustrated Compendium of Weirdly Specific Words celebrates these words by featuring definitions, origins and usage, and coupling illustrations. Words include:

Badling (noun) - a group of ducks.
Crapulence (noun) - sickness resulting from eating too much.
Guddle (verb) - fishing only with your hands.
Kaiju (noun) - A film genre characterized by giant, terrifying monsters.
Slugabed (noun) - A lazy person who stays in bed late.
Wegotism (noun) - The excessive use of the word ‘we’.

With more than 300 insanely specific words, you’d think that you would know a few of them, right? Well, think again! We’re willing to wager that you don’t know a single one of these words! Unless, of course, you have a special interest in the smell of horse urine (the word for that particular odor is jumentuous ). The Illustrated Compendium of Weirdly Specific Words not only captures these words through equally specific illustrations, it also tells you what they mean! And like so many great reference books before it, it is organized in alphabetical order, from aglet to zopissa .

Readers will close this book a little bit smarter than they were when they picked it up!


I received this book as a Secret Santa gift at work last week, and kudos to whoever picked it for me, because, interests-wise, this book is spot on, since I love anything about language(s). Unfortunately, the content of the book did not live up to the excellent topic choice of the purchaser. On the plus side, the illustrations were fun and I did come across a couple of words I hadn't heard of before. However, some of the words chosen for inclusion left me scratching my head. 'Fortnight' is an everyday British-English word I have used since I was a child, so describing a two-week period does not seem 'weirdly specific' to me. And why mention 'selfie'? That hardly seemed worthy of inclusion. I also found some of the cultural grouping in certain explanations a little off-putting, as it suggested a lack of proper research into the different cultures mentioned. Finally, the book needed better proofreading, as there were a number of errors, for example, one page containing words beginning with 'w' marked as 's'. There are other books out there similar to this that are far more scholarly and reliable, so for me, this book gets 2.5 stars. It might provide a bit of fun to some readers, but serious linguists and language-lovers would be better served elsewhere.

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