Select Page

See the picture of the waggish character to your left? He’s David Bukszpan, the author of Is That A Word? subtitled From AA to ZZZ, the Weird and Wonderful Language of Scrabble®, published by Chronicle Books in 2012.

I lifted the photo from Ohio State’s Department of English. Wouldn’t it be fun to make up definitions for his name — and doesn’t he look like a fun person to get to know? The Department’s website lists him as an MFA Student in Creative Writing. He also has office hours, so he must be doing some teaching.  Although this is his first book, he already has an impressive resume. He’s written for the New York Times, the Daily Beast, and websites for Harpers, The Paris Review, and the Economist’s Intelligent life.

He has some fascinating chapters and sidebars, like this one: The Ten Most Important (i.e. highest scoring Two-Letter Words). Here they are, so you’re ready for your next game: Zat: pizza; Qi: the central life force in traditional Chinese culture; Jo: a sweetheart; Ox: a large mammal [hey, we knew that one, at least!]; Xi: a Greek letter; Xu: a monetary unit of Vietnam; Ka: the eternal soul in ancient Egyptian spirituality; and Ki: the life force in traditional Chinese culture.

And now, I’m going to get around to N and I’m going to let Mr. Bukszpan write this blog for me by quoting one of his sections. First, he defines the words, and then he writes a sentence with them. Here we go:

  • Neap: a tide halfway between high and low tides
  • Netop: a buddy
  • Neatnik: a compulsively neat person
  • Naif: a naive person
  • Nett: to net
  • Nekton: any free swimming aquatic animals (in contrast with plankton)
  • Ness: a headland
  • Linn: a waterfall (also lin) [I don’t understand why an “L” is in the list….]
  • Nth: describing an unspecified number of a series
  • Nada: nothing

His sentence is: “At neap, my netop--a neatnik who’s a naif–tried to nett nekton from the ness by the linn for the nth time. Gain: nada.”

For a hilarious, though too long, book trailer about his book, watch this video!

If you have a basic interest in words, even if you’re not a Scrabble® I recommend Is That a Word?  The style is breezy, the illustrations amusing, and along the way, the reader learns the art of  “Unscrambling Scrabblish.”