Brain Pickings

Ounce, Dice, Trice: Exploring the Whimsy of Words in Extraordinary Names for Ordinary Things

by

Cartography for the land of linguistic imagination.

As a lover of language and children’s books, I found myself head over heels with Ounce Dice Trice — poet Alastair Reid and beloved artist Ben Shahn’s marvelous exploration of the nooks and crannies of language, real and imagined, through obscure, esoteric, and invented words for familiar things that are as mind-bending as they are tongue-twisting. It’s part Lewis Carroll, part Shel Silverstein, part something entirely its own and entirely refreshing.

The title comes from the playful alternative words bored shepherds used when they grew tired of counting their sheep the usual way.

Reid, best-known for his translations of Jorge Luis Borges and Pablo Neruda, writes to his young readers — and, it feels, to the eternal child in each of us — in the introduction:

And if you grow to love words for their own sake, you will begin to collect words yourself, and you will be grateful, as I am, to all the people who collect odd words and edit odd dictionaries, out of sheer astonishment and affection.

Conceptually delightful and beautifully illustrated, Ounce Dice Trice will put your relationship with language through a kaleidoscope of whimsy, stirring you to rediscover the sound and feel of words as they tug mischievously at your tongue.

Thanks, Marylaine; images via NYRB

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