Language for an American Landscape

Book Review

Home Ground Language for an American Landscape

Barry Lopez, editor

One could classify this book as a dictionary, but it's not nearly as technical, so let's call it an anthology of vocabulary. The vocabulary it defines is used to characterize the American landscape. Much more than just definitions, these entries are infused with bits of culture and character. Very beautifully written, there are 850 words or terms defined by 45 writers- each contributing their own distinct 'sound' to their entries.

I'm sure most people know what a grotto, fjord, prairie or a waterfall is, but what about a dryki? (an area where trees have been killed by flooding) This book goes from 'a'ā (a rubblelike lava flow) to zig zag rocks (Native American fish trapping dams), with lots in between.

One of the sweetest definitions is of riffle: "...the little brother of a rapid." "Riffles produce some of the happiest voices of a river." And then there are the Southern Appalachian terms hell, slick, wooly head, and yaller patch, which all mean the same thing! That thing is: "an impassable thicket of Laurel or Rhododendron." If you're a word nerd like I am, or interested in our landscape, or just enjoy good writing, you should read this book!

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