Lederer, Richard 1938-

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LEDERER, Richard 1938-

PERSONAL: Born May 26, 1938, in Philadelphia, PA; son of Howard J. (a textile salesman) and Leah (a homemaker; maiden name, Perry) Lederer; married Rhoda Anne Spangenberg, August, 1962 (divorced, July, 1986); children: Howard Henry, Anne Labarr, Katherine Lee; married Simone Johanna van Egeren, November 29, 1991. Education: Haverford College, B.A., 1959; Harvard University, M.A.T., 1962; University of New Hampshire, Ph.D., 1980. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Jewish.


ADDRESSES: Home—San Diego, CA. Offıce—Verbivore, Inc., 9974 Scripps Ranch Blvd., #201, San Diego, CA 92131. E-mail—[email protected] com


CAREER: Columnist, educator, author, humorist, linguist, and public speaker. St. Paul's School, Concord, NH, English teacher and chair of department, 1962-89; writer, 1987—. Language commentator for WEVO, New Hampshire Public Radio. Hosts weekly, hour-long radio show A Way With Words with cohost Charles Harrington Elster, KPBS (San Diego, CA). Has appeared on many national radio programs, including Larry King Radio, The Osgood Files, G. Gordon Liddy, Tom Snyder, Roy Leonard, Dave Maynard, and David Brudnoy. Has appeared on television programs such as the Today Show and CNN Prime Time. Also appeared in "That Crazy English Language," an hour-long program featured on public television stations throughout the United States and Canada. Collaborated with Corpedia Education to develop a certified series of eLearning business writing courses titled Effective Business Communications. Affiliated with Harvard University's Lampoon magazine.

MEMBER: American Mensa, Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (vice-president), International Save the Pun Foundation, Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Delta Kappa.


AWARDS, HONORS: New Hampshire State Doubles Champion in tennis, 1973-74; named International Punster of the Year by International Save the Pun Foundation, 1989; Lifetime Achievement award, Columbia Scholastic Press Association, 1989; Golden Gavel, Toastmasters International, 2002; Leadership award from Toastmasters San Diego; Paul Harris Rotary Fellowship.


WRITINGS:

HUMOR

Anguished English: An Anthology of Accidental Assaults upon Our Language, Wyrick & Co. (Charleston, SC), 1987.

Get Thee to a Punnery: Pun and Games With the English Language, illustrated by Bill Thompson, Wyrick & Co. (Charleston, SC), 1988.

Crazy English: The Ultimate Joy Ride through Our Language, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1989.

More Anguished English: An Expose of Embarrassing, Excruciating, and Egregious Errors in English, illustrated by Bill Thompson, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1993.

Nothing Risqué, Nothing Gained: Ribald Riddles, Lascivious Limericks, Carnal Corn, and Other Good, Clean Dirty Fun, illustrated by Dave Morice, Chicago Review Press (Chicago, IL), 1995, published as The Cunning Linguist: Ribald Riddles, Lascivious Limericks, Carnal Corn, and Other Good, Clean, Dirty Fun!, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2003.

Fractured English: A Pleasury of Bloopers and Blunders, Fluffs and Flubs, and Gaffes and Goofs, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1996.

The Bride of Anguished English: A Bonus of Bloopers, Blunders, Botches, and Boo-Boos, illustrated by Jim McLean, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2000.

(With Gayle Dean) Merriam-Webster's Word Play Crosswords, edited by Eileen M. Haraty, Merriam-Webster (Springfield, MA), Volume 1, 2001, Volume 2, 2002.

FOR CHILDREN

Pun and Games: Jokes, Riddles, Daffynitions, Tairy Fales, Rhymes, and More Wordplay for Kids, illustrated by Dave Norice, Chicago Review Press (Chicago, IL), 1996.

The Circus of Words, Chicago Review Press (Chicago, IL), 2001.

LANGUAGE

The Play of Words: Fifty Games for Language Lovers, illustrated by Bernie Cooper, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1990.

The Miracle of Language, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1991.

(With Michael Gilleland) Literary Trivia: Fun and Games for Book Lovers, Vintage Books (New York, NY), 1994.

Adventures of a Verbivore, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1994.

(With Richard Dowis) The Write Way: The S.P.E.L.L. Guide to Real-Life Writing, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1995.

The Word Circus: A Letter-Perfect Book, illustrated by Dave Morice, Merriam-Webster (Springfield, MA), 1998.

(With Richard Dowis) Sleeping Dogs Don't Lay: Practical Advice for the Grammatically Challenged, illustrated by Jim McLean, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1999.

A Man of My Words: Reflections on the English Language, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2003.


EDITOR

(With Philip Burnham) Basic Verbal Skills, revised edition, Independent School Press (Wellesley Hills, MA), 1975, Wayside Publishing (Sandwich, MA), 1995.

(With Suzanne Marr and Peter Wacht; author of foreword) Disorder in the Court: Legal Laughs, Court Jests, and Just Jokes Culled from the Nation's Justice System, National Court Reporters Association (Vienna, VA), 1996.


Also author of the e-publications Puns Spooken Here, The Biggest Book of Animal Riddles, and Have a Punny Christmas, all published by Time Warner iPublish. Author of "Looking at Language," a weekly column which has appeared in newspapers and magazines nationwide, including Toastmaster, Pages, Farmers' Almanac, Writer's Digest, SPELL/Binder, Mensa Bulletin, JAAMT, Perspectives, On Air, Annals of Improbable Research, Word Ways: The Journal of Recreational Linguistics, and Journal of Court Reporters. Also author of "Grammar Grappler" for Writer's Digest. Contributor of more than two thousand articles to newspapers and magazines, including New York Times, Sports Illustrated, National Review, People, and Reader's Digest, and language journals, including Writing! and Verbatim. Served as usage editor for the unabridged Random House Dictionary of the English Language, 3rd edition (Random House, 2000).


SIDELIGHTS: Richard Lederer describes himself on his Web site as "the kind of child who, almost as soon as he could talk, saw a butterfly and cooed 'Oh, goody. A butterfly will flutter by.'" Lederer's love of language persisted while he pursued a medical degree and won out in the end when he switched majors and graduated with a Ph.D. (which he joked in a Wordsmith Web chat stands for "piled higher and deeper"). Lederer taught English and media for twenty-seven years, during which he wrote his first book and quickly became known as the Wizard of Idiom, Attila the Pun, and Conan the Grammarian.

Lederer lured in suffering language specialists, discouraged dialect devotees, and languid linguists with his first publication Anguished English: An Anthology of Accidental Assaults upon Our Language, likely the most comprehensive collection of printed misappropriations of the English language of its time. Lederer introduced future fans to his manic obsession with malapropisms with this first of many books on the subject. In Anguished English, Lederer presents unintentional international misuses of the English language, such as the Parisian hotel elevator sign instructing guests to "Please leave your values at the front desk," the Swiss restaurant menu misguidedly boasting "Our wines leave you nothing to hope for," and worst of all, the two signs at a Majorcan shop entrance assuring its English-speaking patrons that its employees were well-versed in the language: "English well talking" and "Here speeching American." Lederer also humorously pointed out America's own lapses of judgment when utilizing culturally over-used phrases, such as the Maine restaurant that heralded its hours on a sign stating "Open 7 days a week and weekends," or the private school that portentously presaged "No trespassing without permission."


Shortly after his retirement from teaching in 1989, Lederer told CA: "This is the first fall in forty-eight consecutive years that I have not been in a classroom as a student or a teacher. I left the best teaching job in the world to become a full-time writer and speaker, and to extend my mission as a user-friendly English teacher."


In his 1991 publication The Miracle of Language, Lederer takes a somewhat more serious, but no less witty, look at the English language throughout time, paying homage to some of the great writers who impacted culture by coining many of the phrases still spoken today. The author examines crafting and creation by word-makers such as William Shakespeare, John Dryden, Samuel Johnson, George Bernard Shaw, Ezra Pound, Carl Sandberg, and even Dr. Seuss. George W. Hunt of America called the book "a joyful celebration of the English language . . . replete with funny samples of linguistic dos and don'ts and a wonderful selection of quotations" from these esteemed authors. "Ben Jonson once wrote 'Language most shows a man; speak that I may see thee,'" stated Hunt. "Lederer shows and tells and opens our eyes." One Publishers Weekly critic commended The Miracle of Language for its "entertaining and enlightening essays," ultimately dubbing the book a "delightful and edifying collection."


"Welcome Back, Richard Lederer!" Hunt announced in his review of the author's "bright return" with More Anguished English: An Expose of Embarrassing, Excruciating, and Egregious Errors in English, the sequel to Lederer's first foray. In this book, Lederer continues his collection of innocent bloopers—especially innocent because many of them come from children. Lederer ventures into Sunday schools, where students wrote of the Lord and his "12 opossums," and the part of the Christmas story concerning "the three wise guys from the East Side." As in the first book, Lederer presents tidbits from the secular classroom as well, where students stated their misunderstood versions of history, such as "Joan of Arc was burnt to a steak," "In the middle of the eighteenth century, morons moved to Utah," as well as their muddled misuse of poetic device, including one student's impression that "Shakespeare wrote his plays in Islamic pentameter" and another's admission that "I know what a sestet is, but I'd rather not say."


Lederer's eighth book, Adventures of a Verbivore, examines assorted aspects of the English language. As a verbivore—a person who devours words—Lederer ponders the pros and cons of puns, the differences in American and British English, facets of regional dialect, and proffers captivating catch phrases. The second part of the book offers tricky word games (with the answers provided). "A word-lover's delight," remarked one Publishers Weekly reviewer. Booklist's Denise Perry Donovan described Adventures of a Verbivore as "a good time for all wordaholics." Reviewer Howard S. Shapiro noted that the book is valuable to a wider readership than just the word-obsessed. In a syndicated Knight-Ridder/Tribune review, Shapiro entreated summer readers to "Put down that Danielle Steele" and "give Stephen King a rest," instead encouraging, "While those waves loll in and those rays shoot down, try something—dare we flash the word?—intellectual." Shapiro goes on to describe the book as "wise but not weighty," promising that "Adventures of a Verbivore will have you smiling the whole way through."

For Lederer's thirteenth book, he and coauthor Richard Dowis created a style guide far more humorous than—but just as effective as—the classic Elements of Style by E. B. White and William Strunk, Jr. Sleeping Dogs Don't Lay: Practical Advice for the Grammatically Challenged makes clear cloudy areas of English usage, such as the appropriate employment of "lay" and "lie," "who" and "whom," and "persons" and "people." The authors also tackle tricky grammatical issues, such as comma and apostrophe use, and provide probing grammar games. Lederer and Dowis offer advice in the humorous vein of Lederer's other books, pointing out that even the most educated people misuse language on a regular basis. Author, editor, and reviewer Rebecca Brown stated on her book review Web site, "I was doing fine in my usually grammatically rehabilitated lope until I started Sleeping Dogs Don't Lay—now I feel like that centipede, worrying over every word I use!" Brown called the book "useful and authoritative," stating that "these two fellows have made re-learning our language a bit of fun!" Library Journal's Neal Wyatt described Sleeping Dogs Don't Lay as "a grammar guide for those who like their split infinitives with a side of laughter," commenting further that "anyone who finds worrying over where to put a comma burdensome will appreciate Lederer and Dowis' load-lightening work."


Anguished English returns in the third book of the series, The Bride of Anguished English: A Bonus of Bloopers, Blunders, Botches, and Boo-Boos. Following convention, Lederer presents more of his seemingly endless collection of misleading signs, student interpretations of history, unintentionally comical newspaper headlines, and other gems of gaffe. In a review of The Bride of Anguished English, Kliatt contributor Jeffrey Cooper maintained, "each new book by Lederer offers the delightful prospect of opening to any page at random and enjoying at least half-a-dozen hearty chuckles." Other reviewers also praised the book for its ability to induce laughter. Pam Johnson, in a review of the book for School Library Journal, observed that the book offers "something humorous for everyone's funny bone," concluding that the book proves "language and grammar can actually be fun." One Publishers Weekly reviewer thought the book may even be hazardous to the health of its readers: "Let the reader be warned: don't peruse this book while eating and drinking—one could choke to death from laughing so hard!"


In A Man of My Words: Reflections on the English Language, Lederer examines a wide variety of word-based topics in over forty essays, including the origins of certain words, coinages, and catchphrases, as well as an examination of accents, anecdotes, and other aspects of English. While one Publishers Weekly contributor admitted, "Lederer does bring a lot to the table," the reviewer thought that the essays were "mostly entertaining but best digested in small portions." Marianne Orme in Library Journal reported, "These creative essays demonstrate and delight in the complex nature of language and linguistic change." Orme ultimately termed A Man of My Words a "unique, skillful combination of humor and substance."


Lederer's hidden lewdness surfaces in his 2003 publication The Cunning Linguist: Ribald Riddles, Lascivious Limericks, Carnal Corn, and other Good, Clean, Dirty Fun!, a reprint of an earlier title. This risqué read begins with a quiz to determine if its reader possesses a dirty mind. The book then proceeds with naughty nuances and salacious stories sure to make the most progressive turn pink. "The humor is Austin Powers-like," noted reviewer Rebecca Bollen in Library Journal, who reported that The Cunning Linguist "often leaves the reader cringing rather than grinning." Bollen did, however, comment that it "is the sort of book that brings out the child in adults," which, considering the rest of the author's comical catalog, was likely his intention.


BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Lederer, Richard, Anguished English: An Anthology of Accidental Assaults upon Our Language, Wyrick & Co. (Charleston, SC), 1987.

Lederer, Richard, More Anguished English: An Expose of Embarrassing, Excruciating, and Egregious Errors in English, illustrated by Bill Thompson, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1993.


PERIODICALS

America, July 31, 1993, George W. Hunt, review of The Miracle of Language, p. 2; October 9, 1993, George W. Hunt, review of More Anguished English, p. 2.

Booklist, December 1, 1991, review of The Miracle of Language, p. 665, review of The Miracle of Language, p. 685; October 15, 1993, Denise Perry Donavin, review of More Anguished English, p. 401, review of More Anguished English, p. 424; February 15, 1994, Denise Perry Donavin, review of Adventures of a Verbivore, p. 1041, review of Adventures of a Verbivore, p. 1066; November 15, 2003, Joanne Wilkinson, review of A Man of My Words: Reflections on the English Language, p. 555.

Book Report, May, 1991, review of The Play of Words: Fifty Games for Language Lovers, p. 40; November, 1992, review of The Miracle of Language, p. 55.

Bookwatch, March, 1991, audio book review of Anguished English, p. 3; August, 2001, review of Merriam-Webster's Word Play Crosswords, p. 1.

Book World, September 19, 1993, review of More Anguished English, p. 13; March 20, 1994, review of Adventures of a Verbivore, p. 13.

Come-All-Ye, fall, 1995, review of Nothing Risqué, Nothing Gained: Ribald Riddles, Lascivious Limericks, Carnal Corn, and other Good, Clean Dirty Fun, p. 6.

Curriculum Review, April, 1999, review of The Word Circus: A Letter-Perfect Book, p. 13.

English Journal, March, 1991, review of Get Thee to a Punnery: Pun and Games with the English Language, p. 84, review of Anguished English, p. 84.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 1991, review of The Miracle of Language, p. 1140; January 1, 1994, review of Adventures of a Verbivore, p. 45.

Kliatt, July, 2001, review of Sleeping Dogs Don't Lay: Practical Advice for the Grammatically Challenged, p. 29; September, 2002, Jeffrey Cooper, review of The Bride of Anguished English: A Bonus of Bloopers, Blunders, Botches, and Boo-Boos, p. 30.

Kliatt Young Adult Paperback Book Guide, January, 1991, review of Crazy English: The Ultimate Joy Ride through Our Language, p. 28; March, 1993, review of The Miracle of Language, p. 26; January, 1995, review of More Anguished English, p. 21; July, 1995, review of Adventures of a Verbivore, p. 19; January, 1996, review of The Write Way: The S.P.E.L.L. Guide to Real-Life Writing, p. 20; November, 1996, review of Pun and Games: Jokes, Riddles, Daffynitions, Tairy Fales, Rhymes, and More Wordplay for Kids, p. 18.

Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, June 22, 1994, Howard S. Shapiro, review of Adventures of a Verbivore.

Library Journal, February 15, 1991, audio book review of Anguished English, p. 240; September 15, 1999, Neal Wyatt, review of Sleeping Dogs Don't Lay, p. 70; November 15, 2003, Rebecca Bollen, review of The Cunning Linguist: Ribald Riddles, Lascivious Limericks, Carnal Corn, and other Good, Clean Dirty Fun!, p. 67; December, 2003, Marianne Orme, review of A Man of My Words, p. 119.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, September 17, 1989.

New York Times Magazine, September 3, 1989.

People, October 3, 1988.

Publishers Weekly, September 27, 1991, review of The Miracle of Language, p. 48; August 24, 1992, review of The Miracle of Language, p. 77; September 6, 1993, review of More Anguished English, p. 81; January 24, 1994, review of Adventures of a Verbivore, p. 44; November 14, 1994, review of Literary Trivia: Fun and Games for Book Lovers, p. 64; August 16, 1999, review of Sleeping Dogs Don't Lay, p. 75; September 4, 2000, "Faux Pas and Crimes," review of The Bride of Anguished English, p. 102; October 27, 2003, review of A Man of My Words, pp. 54-55.

Quill & Quire, August, 1991, review of The Miracle of Language, p. 18.

Rapport: West Coast Review of Books, Art & Entertainment, No. 1, 1992, review of The Miracle of Language, p. 36; No. 4, 1992, review of The Miracle of Language, p. 38.

School Library Journal, May, 1992, review of The Miracle of Language, p. 154; February, 2001, Pam Johnson, The Bride of Anguished English, p. 145; August, 2001, review of The Circus of Words, p. 200; June, 2004, Steve Engelfried, review of The Circus of Words, p. 57.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), September 8, 1991, review of The Play of Words, p. 10; October 9, 1994, review of More Anguished English, p. 28; February 19, 1995, review of Adventures of a Verbivore, p. 10.

Virginia Quarterly Review, summer, 1995, review of Literary Trivia, p. 104.


ONLINE

Corpedia Education,http://www.corpedia.com/ (April 28, 2004), "Exclusive Corpedia Faculty Member: Dr. Richard Lederer—Business Communications."

Jewish World Review,http://www.jewishworldreview.com/ (April 28, 2004), Richard Lederer, "Spook Etymology on the Internet."

Pun of the Day Web site,http://www.punoftheday.com/ (January 15, 2001), "Funny People: Richard Lederer."

Rebecca's Reads,http://www.rebeccasreads.com/ (April 30, 2004), Rebecca Brown, review of Sleeping Dogs Don't Lay.

Richard Lederer's Verbivore Web site,http://pw1.netcom.com/~rlederer (April 28, 2004).

Wordsmith,http://www.wordsmith.org/ (December 13, 2001), "A Chat With Richard Lederer."*