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Language Arts & Disciplines Etymology

Can I Have a Word with You?

by (author) Howard Richler

Ronsdale Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2007
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2007
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2007
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 15
  • Grade: 10


In his fifth book about language, Howard Richler moves from A to Z with a specifically chosen word for every letter of the alphabet. What especially intrigues him is how words come to mean what they mean, how they lose some meanings and gain others. Always humorous, Richler invites readers into the intimacy of language and allows us to delight in the ever-shifting glories of English. Not since Lynn Truss Eats, Shoots & Leaves has a book about language been so hilarious and informative. This book is a must not only for the bookshelves of all logophiles, but also as the bible for the many family members and friends whose get-togethers often spark lively linguistic argument. "Howard Richler is an intoxicated and intoxicating wordaholic who gets unrepentantly high on all flavors, savors, bouquets, and proofs of words. He is a genuinely certified verbivore who feasts on words. " Richard Lederer, author of Anguished English, Crazy English, and The Miracle of Language.

About the author

Howard Richler is a long-time logophile who has served as a language columnist for several newspapers and magazines. He is the author of seven previous books on language, including The Dead Sea Scroll Palindromes (1995), Take My Words:A Wordaholic’s Guide to the English Language (1996), A Bawdy Language: How a Second-Rate Language Slept its Way to the Top (1999), Global Mother Tongue: The Eight Flavours of English (2006), Can I Have a Word with You (2007), Strange Bedfellows: The Private Lives of Words (2010), How Happy Became Homosexual: And Other Mysterious Semantic Shifts (2013), and most recently, Wordplay: Arranged and Deranged Wit. Richler resides in Montreal with his partner Carol, where he struggles to be fluent not only in French but in the many flavours of the English language.You can check out his language musings and daily word puzzles on Facebook at and on Twitter @howardrichler, or visit his wordnerd blog at

Howard Richler's profile page

Librarian Reviews

Can I Have a Word With You?

Howard Richler’s fifth book on the English language illustrates how words are always changing. In an A-Z format, Richler has selected words that represent every letter of the alphabet. He not only gives us the history of each word, but also explores their hidden meanings. He shows us how words can be used in different contexts, how we often use words selectively, and how some words have completely changed their meanings or have secondary meanings. How has “Orwellian” become a political euphemism, for example? Which came first, the word “orange” meaning the fruit or the colour? How have we become “cyber-inundated” since the 1990s? Why are some words considered to be politically incorrect? Richler’s treatise on words is both insightful and entertaining.

Richler’s other books on language include Global Mother Tongue and Take My Words.

Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. BC Books for BC Schools. 2008-2009.

Other titles by Howard Richler