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Giveaways: An ABC Book of Loanwords from the Americas

Giveaways: An ABC Book of Loanwords from the Americas

By: Linda Boyden
Publisher: University of New Mexico Press
Publication Date: October 2010
ISBN: 978-0-8263-4726-8 
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: January 12, 2011

This is definitely an homage to the alphabet - a tribute to the words that are part of the language we speak, yet never really knew or appreciated where they came from. For 'word geeks,' as this author labels herself, there are words in the dictionary that you love simply because of their beauty or the thoughts that are provoked when spoken, such as: vivacity, ethereal, or allure. There are also words that people simply love to use out loud because of how much fun they are to say...conquistador, flabbergasted, and superfluous come to mind. But what most people don't know is that some words are called loanwords – words that were adopted from other languages. Etymologists (another cool word) are people who actually study words and word origins, offering to the world a larger concept of where these were first spoken, what they meant, and how they were molded to fit into American English.

Not only is this extremely well-researched book fun to read, but it also gives an in-depth look at the history of a nation. Some entries provide the origin of the word while also listing fun facts, and good and bad news regarding the word. For example: A for abalone explains that a Native people in Northern California called the Ohlones of Monterey Bay fished for sea creatures they called aulon; then, the Spanish arrived and changed the word to abulones; and, last but not least American settlers changed it to abalone. Each speaker meant the same thing, but each “borrowed” the word from others to form their own language. Not only is this information given, but there are also facts regarding the nature of the sea snail, their location, the laws that have been passed regarding saving the abalone population, as well as news of underwater farming that's helping to keep the abalone alive and well. Add to these interesting facts a gorgeous four-color illustration, and you have an informative book that captures the eye and keeps readers engrossed until the letter Z has had it’s chance to shine.

From 1492, when Columbus met up with the Taino people in the Caribbean and had his first taste of barbakoa (barbecue) – to the squnck (skunk) in Massachusetts that lifted its tail and sprayed its everlasting scent on the first dog to cross its path – every page offers the reader a fantastic adventure. As you flip the pages and go from the jungles of the yagura (jaguar), to the backyard of the Incans in Peru who domesticated the llama over 6,000 years ago, every letter bestows information about the things we now take for granted.

This book is a true celebration of words that every parent should purchase and enjoy it side-by-side with their children…it’s that good! The facts, figures, information, and wonderful illustrations come together to offer a fun read that will lead many to pick up a dictionary to find out more, or head back to college to become an etymologist…just to be able to say that word out loud on many, many occasions.

Quill says: A true joy to read!

For more information on Giveaways: An ABC Book of Loanwords from the Americas, please visit the author's website at:

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