• blurb •
blêrb • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A brief description of a book, often printed on the dust jacket. 2. A short publicity notice.
Notes: Today's word is an odd little fellow that won't go away but hasn't procreated. We may use it as a verb: to blurb someone is to speak or write in overly congratulatory tones about them. Specialists in writing blurbs have been called blurbists though what they do has not been referred to as blurbistry yet and blurbism is just beginning to creep to the surface of the Web.
In Play: Today's word began its life referring to the usually immodest commentary written on the dust jacket of a book: "Reading the blurb on the jacket of his new book, the reader gets the impression that Jess Newcomb was solely responsible for ending the Vietnam War." Now, however, it refers to any partisan description used as advertising: "Martine, would you write up a blurb on our natural gas powered window installer for the new catalog, please?"
Word History: Seldom do we know so precisely when a new word entered English. Today's Good Word was coined by humorist Gelett Burgess in 1907 to mock the excessive praise found on book jackets. Some have suggested that the word originated with another writer, Brander Matthews, but Matthews himself set the record straight in a 1922 New York Times article. This word struck H. L. Mencken as a blend or portmanteau word. It certainly appears to be the result of smushing two words like blurt and pub together. However, we have no evidence that supports any theory other than that Burgess concocted blurb on his own, a nonsense word that stuck. (Here is a modest little blurb of thanksgiving to Christy Nichols for suggesting today's Good Word.)
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