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This genial book celebrates above all the dazzling inventiveness of authors.” – Wall Street Journal

“Much like raisin bread from your kitchen toaster, another Paul Dickson book has popped up, much to the delight of his devoted legion of followers. … Once you crack the covers of this fascinating (and highly informative) dictionary-rest assured-you won’t set it down again until you’ve gone through the complete A-Z of entries; that’s assuming, of course, that you’re a lover of words.” – Daily News Gems

“I was fascinated to discover that sayings I'd mistaken for relatively recent - blurb (1907), frenemy (1953), weapons of mass destruction (1937), wimp (from an 1898 children's book by Evelyn Sharpe) - actually predated me. It's enough to drive an anxious magazine editor to verbicide.” – Mother Jones

“Dickson … has written a dozen word books and dictionaries. In Authorisms, it’s clear he has perfected the genre. His tone is light but informed. He sprinkles in his own wit and several amusing digressions, involving recipe-containing footnotes for anchovy paste (spun off an entry detailing the first English appearance of “anchovy” in “Henry IV, Part I”) and “daiquiri” (popularized by F. Scott Fitzgerald). Dickson’s prose is readable even when it delves into more scholarly debates, such as how many words Shakespeare coined, with estimates ranging from several hundred to more than 10,000. Dickson is also careful about making clear when a writer invented a word vs. having been the first one to record it.
Authorisms is an unputdownable (Raymond Chandler) exercise in philology that makes you chortle (Lewis Carroll). As James Fenimore Cooper would have said, “A-Number-1."” – The Washington Post

“If, like me, you are a lover of words – especially made up words – this is the perfect book, gift book and guest nightstand book. Authorisms are words which authors have made up to fill a semantic void: words like yogibogeybox which is what James Joyce called the paraphernalia of a spiritualist. The ability to neologize – or create new words – makes English a vibrant and living language. …The author, Paul Dickson, has written forty books and other dictionaries such as The Dickson Baseball Dictionary Dictionary of the Space Age and Slang. Dickson has a light touch and a clever way of listing definitions which makes his book a great pleasure to read. If you are a graduating student who was lucky to have a gifted English teacher, this would make a very fine present.” – San Francisco Book Review

“There is no plot. There is no flowing narrative, no protagonist, no conflict, no rising and falling action, no denouement. Yet, Authorisms is peopled with characters – the authors who "wrought" these words – and even some controversy – did Shakespeare create thousands of new words or just a few hundred – and it is a fascinating read that you will come back to time and again. It is a "recreational" look at words as Dickson said in a recent presentation. If you like words and the myriad ways in which writers manipulate them, you will be delighted by this well-researched, well-written, and entertaining exploration of how some words came to be. Words are arranged alphabetically in a short paragraph or two that explains who coined the word, its meaning, and when it likely appeared first in print. When that is in question, Dickson lets us know. Keep Authorisms close at hand, suitable for browsing at random. It is a delightful way to improve your vocabulary and provide more than an occasional "chortle."” –

“A rich history of neologisms that reveals how funny and random language is … Surprises and revelations abound in Dickson’s quirky alphabet … Dickson restores a shock of novelty to words or phrases that have become shop-soiled … As a herbivore, Dickson expects words to taste good when they’re uttered and he acknowledges that they can sometimes go to the head and leave us feeling woozy … Why, I wondered while reading Authorisms, is all this so funny and so much fun? Perhaps because it demonstrates that language is a comically implausible, absurdly unnecessary phenomenon, airy proof of the lightness of our being. Dickson deluights in harmless insults, such as “Malaga!” – a dire-sounding but nonsensical curse from a Dumas novel – or Ben Bradlee’s gloriously learned “retromingent”, which refers to insects that pee backwards; he also take a riotous pleasure in onomatopoeic noises such as “chortle” and “chug-a-lug”” – Peter Conrad, Observer

“The English language has given us some wonderful words and phrases – such as gremlins and flibertigibbets. But where did they come from? In his fascinating new book, Paul Dickson reveals all.” – Daily Mail

“For language fanciers it is a potentially vertiginous thought that every single word must once have been coined by a particular individual … Pleasantly surprising … The lesson I drew from this book at last, was that successful coinage, like happiness, may be more likely the less you aim directly at it.” – Steven Poole, Guardian

“Almost unputdownable … Paul Dickson … Has crammed his slim A-Z of neologisms with such entertaining factoids … So is Authorisms unputdownable (Raymond Chandler, 1947)? Steady on, but it may appeal to those suffering from alogotransiphobia, the fear of being caught on public transport with nothing to read.” – Robbie Millen, The Times

Recent Books

This latest edition, published in 2009 has over 10,000 terms and 18,000 definitions.

A Dictionary of the Secret language of Families

Family Words
Every family has them. The words that only you use, your own secret language. For instance, one family has coined the word "Lurkin" for any sock that has lost it's mate because ""you know the other one is 'lurkin' around somewhere." This book is packed with these words, contributed from families from all across the country. They'll make you think, smile, and might even change your vocabulary.

Slang: The Topical Dictionary of Americanisms
Slang is an excellent companion whether you are reading modern fiction or a news magazine, watching edgy movies, or talking to your teenager. It's the perfect book for anyone who wants to be up to speed on American English and contemporary culture.

"Dickson has done it again, entrancing those who want to eavesdrop on the slanguage of everyone from barista to bitheads." --Erin McKean, American lexicogrrapher and editor of Verbatim: The Language Quarterly

"With focus, a passion for language, and a world-class ear, Dickson has produced brilliant chapter after brilliant chapter, any one of whch would be a lifetime achievement for most lexicographers."--Tom Dalzell, senior editor of The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English and author of Flappers to Rappers--American youth Slang

Labels For Locals
"Dickson's done it again with another book that no classroom or newsroom should be without."--Grant barrett, project editor, Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Oxford University Press

"Filled with tantalizing trivia and fascinating facts, this book will be savored by word lovers everywhere." --Mandy Groth, author of Viva la Repartee and Oxymoronic.

"Whether you need to find out what to call people from your neighboring state or from halfway around the earth, Paul Dickson is ready with the answer."--Anu Garg, founder of and author of Another Word A Day

Bonus marchers on their way to Washington, DC

The Bonus Army: An American Epic
An American Epic
Paul Dickson and Thomas B. Allen

In the summer of 1932, at the height of the Depression, some 45,000 veterans of the Great War descended on Washington, D.C. from all over the country to demand the bonus that had been promised them eight years earlier for their wartime service. They lived in shantytowns, white and black together, and for two months they protested and rallied for their cause.

President Herbert Hoover, Secretary of War Patrick Hurley, and Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur among others, became increasingly alarmed that the protesters would turn violent after the Senate defeated the "bonus bill" that had been passed by the House. On July 28, 1932, for the first time tanks rolled through the streets of the capitol as MacArthur's troops forcibly evicted the bonus marchers: American soldiers driving out their former comrades in arms. Newspapers and newsreels showed graphic images of fleeing veterans and their families, blazing shacks, soldiers wielding fixed bayonets. Democratic presidential candidate, Franklin Roosevelt, in a close contest with the increasingly unpopular Hoover, upon reading the newspaper accounts of the eviction said to an adviser, "this will elect me."

Through seminal, primary research, including interviews with the last surviving witnesses, historians Paul Dickson and Thomas Allen tell the full and dramatic story of the Bonus Army for the first time—including the unprecedented camaraderie of white and black marchers that prefigured desegregation. They recover the voices of ordinary men who dared tilt at powerful injustice, and who ultimately transformed the nation: The march inspired Congress to pass the G. I. Bill of Rights in 1944, one of the most important pieces of social legislation in our history, which in large part created America’s middle class and recast the (contract) with its citizens. The Bonus Army is an epic story in the saga of this country.

War Slang
This is an updated edition of a comprehensive collection of fighting words and wartime phrases that Americans have used from the Civil War to the Iraq War. It is arranged war by war and reveals mlitary slang at it's most colorful, innovative, brutal and ironic--and shows how language mirrors the unique experience of each war. This incomparable reference work serves the language lover and military historian alike by adding an eloquent new dimension to the understanding of war.--Publisher

Praise for the first edition:

"An excellent compilation, from the Civil War to the present, to help you decode such words as 'chow','pogey bait' and others that can't be repeated here."-Portland Oregonian."

"Incapturing the earthy color of the language of the trenches, Paul Dickson has written an A-1 blockbuster of a book."-Richard Lederer, author of Crazy English

"The author's brief but carefully thought-out informal introductions to each section help define the flavor of the period."-Booklist

The Hidden Language of Baseball
-- How Signs and Sign-Stealing Have Influenced the Course of Our National Pastime --

Baseball is set apart from other sports by many things, but few are more distinctive than the intricate systems of coded language that govern action on the field and give baseball its unique appeal. During a nine-inning game, more than 1,000 silent instructions are given—from catcher to pitcher, coach to batter, fielder to fielder, umpire to umpire—and without this speechless communication the game would simply not be the same. Baseball historian Paul Dickson examines for the first time the rich legacy of baseball’s hidden language, offering fans everywhere a smorgasbord of history and anecdote.-Publisher

"If you absorb even a fraction of the information in his [Dickson's] tales of baseball's silent strategy and how teams have used it to win games through the decades, your next trip to the ballpark will be considerably richer."—Mike McNamee, Business Week, Online

"A pleasure...Dickson writes extremely well and appreciates the nuances of baseball controversy...This fine and original book should be in any literate fan's library."—Luke Salisbury, Sunday 8/24, Boston Globe

"Dickson's impressively researched, well-written page-turner isn't just for baseball fans. The anecdotes he recounts are fascinating, and the trivia is obscure enough that even a baseball fanatic will be enlightened."—Jessica Flint, Washingtonian Online

"So the baseball season ended in such a fabulous fashion that you’ve been left hungry for more. Well, spring training won’t begin for months. Yet here’s a suggestion: Paul Dickson’s The Hidden Language of Baseball. Subtitled How Signs and Sign-Stealing Have Influenced the Course of Our National Pastime, Dickson’s book contains enough inside information to dazzle even Tim McCarver and Al Leiter. Did you know that during the course of a nine-inning game, an average of 1,000 silent instructions are given—from catcher to pitcher, coach to batter and base runner, fielder to fielder, umpire to umpire? It’s true. You can look it up. In this book."-Legal Times, November 3, 2003

The Joy of Keeping Score: How Scoring the Game has Influenced and Enhanced the History of Baseball
There are two reasons to head out to the ballpark. One is to passively watch the game, the other is to actively see it, and you can't do the latter without a scorecard. In this slim gem of a volume, Paul Dickson clearly explains and translates the quirky documentation system, which looks like cuneiform to the uninitiated, for recording what happens on the ball field, and why true fans are so adamant about doing it. Filled with history, anecdotes, and rules, it also reproduces--to the joy of scorers everywhere--the official scorer's records for some of baseball's most significant moments, including Don Larson's perfecto and Babe Ruth's called

"The history of scorekeeping, practical scoring techniques, notable scorekeeping blunders and idiosyncrasies, facsimiles of famous scorecards, and more-it’s all here in this “celebration of one of baseball’s most divine and unique pleasures" (USA Today Baseball Weekly).

"If you are scoring at home...Mark this book down as an extra-base hit. Dickson...has done it again." (the Sporting News).

"Dickson has written a testimonial to the joys of scoring that true baseball fans will embrace." (Publishers Weekly)

"Baseball fans young and old are certain to enjoy this book." (Wes Lukowsky--Booklist)

The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, Third Edition

"Probably the most complete guide ever compiled of the language and terminology of the 'national pastime' unfailing delight for the true fan."

"Anyone who loves baseball will want this book. Abundantly illustrated...Great browsing."
-San Francisco Chronicle

"A gold mine of information...sheer entertaining reading on every page."
-Cincinnati Enquirer

The Shock of the Century

On October 4, 1957, as Leave It to Beaver premiered on American television, the Soviet Union launched the space age. Sputnik, all of 184 pounds with only a radio transmitter inside its highly polished shell, became the first man-made object in space; while it immediately shocked the world, its long-term impact was even greater, for it profoundly changed the shape of the twentieth century.

Washington journalist Paul Dickson chronicles the dramatic events and developments leading up to and emanating from Sputnik's launch. Supported by groundbreaking, original research and many recently declassified documents, Sputnik offers a fascinating profile of the early American and Soviet space programs and a strikingly revised picture of the politics and personalities behind the facade of America's fledgling efforts to get into space.

By shedding new light on a pivotal era, Paul Dickson expands our knowledge of the world we now inhabit, and reminds us that the story of Sputnik goes far beyond technology and the beginning of the space age, and that its implications are still being felt today. --Publisher

"Paul Dickson's indefatigable research and reportorial lucidity have given us a fascinating history of the event that forever changed our world." --Walter Cronkite

"Sputnik is a fascinating slice of useful social history...A serious book that is breezily written, Sputnik reviews the scientific history, the Cold War mentality and a media-driven crisis over what headline writers called 'the Red Moon'." --USA TODAY

"In these first months of responding to the terrorism of Sept. 11,
books like this one are particularly valuable, helping us place the present event in the context of history and to make decisions that future historians will regard as necessary, courageous, and resulting in an enduring positive impact on civilization."
— The Dallas Morning News, Fred Bortz

"Impossible to put down when browsing and easy to use when looking something up, this is the ideal book for anyone who thinks they may have to "just say a few words"." - Publisher

Includes an introduction to toasting, a brief history of the custom and over 1500 of the best to use directly or for inspiration.

Go to, my new website, for all kinds of information about toasting-- the history, how and when to make a toast and lots of good examples listed by occasion.

Selected Works

A dictionary of the secret language of families
The only slang dictionary arranged by topic--now substantially revised and expanded.
In our globally interconnected age, misnaming where someone is from or the cultural group to which they belong often constitutes more than a harmless social gaffe. Labels for Locals provides guidance on the preferred, and sometimes disdained, names for selected locales, cities, regions, countries, and ethnic groups worldwide.
American Fighting Words and Phrases Since the Civil War--Recommended by William Safire in his New York Times Magazine "On Language" column.
American History: narrative non-fiction
The all but forgotten but dramatic story of WWI vets from their historic march on Washington in 1932, to demand the bonus promised them for their wartime service, to the passage of the GI Bill which was their lasting legacy.
"... an old-fashioned whiz-bang: Dickson's most complicated, most rewarding book yet." -James H. Bready, The Baltimore Sun, July 6, 2003
Baseball fans young and old are certain to enjoy this book. Wes Lukowsky, Booklist
"That rarest of sports books, a valuable reference work that provides absorbing and enlightening reading." -Sports Illustrated
"Paul Dickson's indefatigable research and reportorial lucidity have given us a fascinating history of the event that forever changed our world." -Walter Cronkite
Special occasion? Need a toast? For ideas and inspiration check it out--over 1500 of the Best Toasts, Sentiments, Blessings, and Graces.