Paul McFedries

“Information appears to stew out of me naturally, like the precious ottar of roses out of the otter.” —⁠Mark Twain

Word Spy: The Word Lover's Guide to Modern Culture

A fun and interesting look at what’s happening in our world through the prism of new words and phrases.

Front cover of the book Word Spy: The Word Lover's Guide to Modern Culture

Book Info

  • Publisher: Broadway Books
  • Pages: 432
  • Price: US$23
  • Pub. date: February 17, 2004
  • Category: language
  • Tags: neologisms, words

This book is a series of cultural snapshots, with the lens focused on new words and phrases that tell us something about our world. These snapshots cover various slices of modern life, including relationships, business, technology, war, aging, multiculturalism, and even fast food. I define each word, tell you when it first appeared in print, provide a citation from the media that shows how the word is used, and give you some cultural background — stats, stories, trends, and tidbits — that put the word into context. Taken together, I hope these snapshots form a larger picture of our modern culture. Have you ever seen one of those images that, when examined closely, turns out to be made up of thousands of smaller pictures? It's called a mosaic, and that's the metaphor that underlies this book. It's a mosaic of new words.

Some things you ought to know about the book:

  • It's on sale now!
  • It covers over 1,000 words and phrases, from accelerated-care nursing to zoomers.
  • Hundreds of those words and phrases are NOT on the Word Spy website, so there’s plenty of new material.

More Praise for Word Spy:

“Paul McFedries’ obvious passion for tracking down cutting-edge expressions had led to a fascinating linguistic commentary for those of us who ought to know a ‘leather spinster’ from a ‘weddingmoon.’ He opens the reader’s eyes and ears to a new language that continues to emerge.”
—Jeffrey Kacirk, author of Forgotten English and The Word Museum.

Word Spy is a triumph—a joyful romp through language and lingo of our times. Today’s readers will love it. Tomorrow’s readers will need it. So here’s a message to the archaeologists of the future: Please dust off this book and read every page. It is your starting point for deciphering what life was like in the 21st century.”
—Daniel H. Pink, author of Free Agent Nation

“Tired of finding dead words embalmed in dusty dictionaries? Word Spy is one of those rare books that captures words live in the wild, complete with up-to-the minute citations and examples of usage. Glurge, metrosexual, toxic bachelor, bozo explosion, flash mob, weapons of mass distraction—they are all here, complete with origin, usage, and great quotations. Like Eric Raymond’s New Hacker's Dictionary, Word Spy is living proof that to invent a language is to invent a way of life.”
—Richard Dooling, author of White Man's Grave

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