Strange & Unusual Dictionaries: Select a Book to Read Online About the Author

Webster’s Dictionary of Improbable Words:
All-Consonant and All-Vowel Dictionary

The All-Consonant and All-Vowel Words dictionaries bring together 4,000 unusual and fascinating words that defy convention, offering a vast sampling of our living language at play.  Just as William Shakespeare introduced some six hundred new words to the English language in Hamlet alone, generations of authors and other communicators represented in All-Consonant and All-Vowel Words have coined their own new words, using the building blocks of language to express new meanings.  As our standard dictionaries scramble to catalog and thereby legitimize our growing vocabulary, the All-Consonant and All-Vowel Words dictionaries offer the casual word gamer and language lover a cutting edge collection of new words.  Examples of usage abound—as old as the Bible and as current as blog postings—grounding extraordinary terms in ordinary contexts.  Myriad genres are represented, from literary classics by James Joyce to the dramatic plays of Tennessee Williams to the whimsical fantasies of Neil Gaiman, as well as the diverse worlds of science fiction, romance novels, children’s stories, historical and military accounts, graphic novels and comic books, travel reports, news articles, magazine features, poetry, song lyrics, birdwatching guides, hymns, and how-to manuals.

The All-Consonant and All-Vowel Words dictionaries are wonderful for browsing, quotation finding, as an inspiration for writers and speakers, and for enhancing one’s appreciation of vowels and consonants.  They are essential desk companions for puzzle lovers, wordsmiths, teachers and students, librarians, trivia buffs, know-it-alls, cartoonists, humorists, and armchair linguists.  They are coffee-table conversation pieces for anyone with a love of language.  They make a great gift for those difficult-to-buy-for quirky intellectuals, word nerds, or brainy friends who already have everything.  They are also perfect for bathroom reading.


“Is a dictionary a guidebook or a rulebook?  Does it tell you where you can go or what you should do?  In this fascinating compendium of improbable words comprised either entirely of consonants or entirely of vowels, Craig Conley takes guidebook lexicography (or descriptivism) to an extreme that is comic and informative in succession.  ‘Comic’ because it is at first amusing to read a dictionary with entries like ‘oooooo ooooo’ (‘a wail of wanton depravity’) or ‘whrr’ (‘an emphatic spoken by a rat’).  Yet it soon becomes clear that Conley is after more than jokes: like the OED, his Dictionary of Improbable Words generously quotes published instances of usage, which leads the book to read like a tribute to literary creativity in domains from video games and comics to classical and experimental fiction to straightforward ornithology—any type of writing whose authors were not satisfied with the words in the standard dictionaries and had to devise their own representations of how the world sounds (‘trrt-trrt,’ ‘mm,’ ‘brrrm,’ etc.).  As such, Conley’s dictionary may be used as a rulebook for writers in search of elegant and inventive onomatopoeia for purposes ranging from the whimsical to the scientific.  Conley also, by the way, reveals that the world contains more rivers, streams, and towns with all-vowel names than you might expect, and in that way his intriguing lexicon approaches the status of a literal guidebook!” —John Pistelli, author of Portraits and Ashes

“I’m not generally the kind of writer who reads dictionaries cover to cover.  But I couldn’t put this one down.  This dictionary reminds you that not only is language a living, changing, entity — it’s also creative and powerful and personal.  Just a few pages of this book will encourage you to lighten up and bravely approach your own prose.” —Gordon, of Bizarre Chicago

“Get yourself the edge in Scrabble.” —National Young Writers’ Festival

“For those Scrabble moments when all you have are vowels.” —

“One of the Web’s best sites.” —Encyclopedia Britannica (referring to the free web preview of the dictionaries)

“Resources for endless hours of word play.” —Bernie DeKoven, author of The Well Played Game

“The examples are delightful and the dictionaries are a lot of fun to browse through.” —Tara Calishain, author of Official Netscape Guide to Internet Research

“ALL LITERATE PEOPLE (hint, that includes you) need the strange and unusual dictionaries.” —Clark Humphrey, author of Loser: The Real Seattle Music Story

“If you’re a fan of Scrabble, or just English in general, then you’re going to find a lot of useful tips.” —Ian Fraser, columnist for The Daily Mail and Guardian

“Why use that everyday average dictionary that everyone else uses? Be original!” —Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D., University of Washington

“Highly imaginative and brilliantly researched.” —Web User Magazine (U.K.)

“Obscure, fun and silly dictionaries!” —Anne Greenshields, Murdoch University librarian

“A gem.” —Colleen Bell, University of Oregon librarian

“A fascinating writer’s resource.” —Joe Clifford Faust, author of Precious Cargo

“Entertaining.” —Education & Reference Questions and Answers

Copyright © 2020 Craig Conley