‘Wordbirds’: A new book for word nerds

Brooklyn BookBeat: Author to speak in DUMBO

Liesl Schillinger. Photo by Sarah Shatz
Liesl Schillinger. Photo by Sarah Shatz

If you’re a word nerd, and you care more about your Words With Friends stats than the score of the Super Bowl, chances are you’ll be excited about Liesl Schillinger’s new book, “Wordbirds” (Simon & Schuster; Oct. 15), recently featured on Brooklyn Eagle. Schillinger, an esteemed cultural critic, with illustrator Elizabeth Zechel, has crafted a beautiful book that offers 200 witty, newly claimed words that can help us make our way through the ever-evolving cultural language of the new millennium.

“Etitext,” for instance, refers to social behavior (often bad) connected with the use of cell phones and PDAs. “Cancellelation” is the joy felt by someone who frees up his or her schedule by canceling an appointment or reneging on a social plan. First coined on Schillinger’s Tumblr, the words in “Wordbirds” are amusing and clever tools that resonate because they are at once original and familiar.  Accompanying the words – all of which are defined and used in a sentence – are Zechel’s stunning illustrations.

Some more ‘Wordbirds’ include:


Brightbite (N.) ‘bryt-byt: One who bleaches his teeth until they reach an implausible degree of whiteness.


Freudschade (N.) ‘froyd-sha-duh: Annoyance at being used continually as a therapist by friends or relatives who have no interest in any conversation that does not directly involve their own issues.


Lockblock (N.) ‘lok-blok: The state of confusion that assails you as you leave your house, in which you lock the door only to have to reopen it, as you remember something crucial you needed to do before you left.


Masculara (N.) ‘mas-kew-‘lair-a: Mascara, when applied by trendy men.


Overdoeuvre (V.) ‘o-vur-‘durv: To eat so many appetizers that you lose your appetite for a meal.


Polterguy (N.) ‘pol-tur- gī: Ex-boyfriend who exerts a haunting, destructive influence on a person’s later relationships.

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Schillinger will appear for a book launch party at DUMBO’s powerHouse Arena on Oct. 16. The event will begin at 7 p.m. powerHouse Arena is located at 37 Main St. in DUMBO.

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Image courtesy of Simon and Schuster
Image courtesy of Simon and Schuster

Liesl Schillinger has written for many publications, including The New York TimesThe New Yorker, The Washington Post, and The New Republic. She is a regular contributor to The New York Times Book Review and translates fiction from French and German.


Elizabeth Zechel is the illustrator and author of the children’s book “Is There a Mouse in the Baby’s Room?” She has created illustrations for children’s books and cookbooks, as well as for a variety of magazine and literary journals. She lives in Brooklyn.

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