BY Phil Cousineau
Viva Editions 16.95 404 pages
The Painted Word is an intriguing collaboration between a self-titled word-catcher and an artist, bringing readers the colorful history of words both familiar and offbeat. Each word entry is followed by the word’s definition and etymology, described as beguilingly as possible. Then follows quotes showing typical and atypical usage and finally, related words, either in root or concept. Chadwick’s beautiful and evocative paintings are sprinkled throughout the book, illustrating specific words in an astonishingly tangible way. Throughout the text, any word that is defined elsewhere in this book, or in Cousineau’s previous one, is bolded and italicized or underlined, respectively. It’s handy, though utterly distracting.
Reading this book, with its staggering vocabulary, requires an almost excessive amount of attention, but for an avid wordsmith it’s worth the effort. Cousineau introduces quirky words (often about which a reader can’t help but think, “There’s actually a word for that?”) as well as ordinary ones that have curious pasts. He delivers them all with the enthusiasm of an explorer on the verge of profound discovery, and a wicked sense of humor. The Painted Word is a selective dictionary unleashed and gone wild.
Reviewed By Andrea Klein