Can I Have a Word with You?

Can I Have a Word With You?

Can I Have a Word with You?

by Howard Richler


  • Autumn 2007
  • ISBN 978-1-55380-049-1 (1-55380-049-4)
  • 6″ x 9″ Trade Paperback, 200 pages
  • Language

In his fifth book about language, Howard Richler moves through the alphabet from A to Z singling out words that may look innocuous but contain treasures of hidden meanings. Especially intriguing for Richler is how words change their meanings and develop layered connotations, involving us in a complex and often involuntary language game. Witter and erudite, Richler invites readers into the intimacy of language and allows us to delight in the ever-shifting glories of English. Among the questions he asks are:

What is the proper designation for a person older than sixty-five?
What constitutes “marriage?”
Should “niggardly” be regarded as offensive?
Is there a difference between an “abortionist” and an “abortion provider?”
How should a person who is not married refer to one’s love interest? Boyfriend/Girlfriend? Lover? Partner? Or?
Why are homosexuals called “gay?”
If we call all the people who hunt “hunters,” should we refer to all those who fish as “fishers?”

Along with the serious fruits of his research, Richler also relates some of the hilarious language snafus he has heard: “Molotov cocktails” referred to as “mazel-tov cocktails” and the mishearing of the Beatles’ lyric “The girl with kaleidoscope eyes” as “The girl with colitis goes by.” Not since Lynn Truss’s 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.

Also by Howard Richler:



Quill & Quire

“If the reader has a passion for language, however latent, reading Richler is sure to awaken it.”
The Senior Times

“Howard’s work is as entertaining as it is insightful”
Concordia University Magazine