Founding Grammars gets to the roots of our grammar obsession, tracing current debates back to America's earliest days, an era when many families owned only two books—the Bible and a grammar primer. Everyone agreed that proper speech was important, but just what that meant was much more hotly contested.

"Founding Grammars is a fanfare for the common word, a welcome reminder that American English is a language of the people, by the people, and for the people."
–Patricia T. O'Conner, author of Woe Is I and coauthor of Origins of the Specious

"Chronicles [the] word wars in wonderful, wonkish detail."
–Sarah Kaplan, Washington Post, July 31, 2015

"Delightful book."
–John McIntyre, The Baltimore Sun, Nov. 10, 2015

"[Shows] that grammar-pusses have been with us for centuries now while English has kept on keeping on."
–John McWhorter, author of Power of Babel, Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue, and What Language Is


Slinging Mud gathers the most memorable words and expressions from two centuries of going negative—a tradition as American as apple pie. President Washington's enemies called him a tyrannical monster and a hyena, not to mention a cheapskate. So it has gone ever since.

"An entertaining look at how American rhetoric and electioneering has shaped our perceptions of national politics."
–Bradley Wright, Portland Book Review, Nov. 3, 2011

"Ostler gives us the good lines but also puts them in historical context and digs out fascinating bits about their origins."
–Steve Levingston, Washington Post, Aug. 19, 2011

"The result of considerable research into American politics."
–Bill Miller, Sr., Missourian, May 2, 2012


Let's Talk Turkey gets to the roots of over 150 familiar figures of speech. These popular expressions grew out of the people, places, and events that have captured the American imagination.

"Much more than a list of phrases and definitions, … a lively and enjoyable exploration of how Americans developed their own inimitable style of speech."
Monsters & Critics, May 7, 2011

"Provides the story—and in some cases the many stories—behind the words."
–Brandy Allport, Florida Times-Union, Nov. 24, 2008

"Informative, readable, and a handy guide to numerous Americanisms."
–eLanguage, Dec. 24, 2010

"You can bet your bottom dollar that this book will inform and amuse."
–Randall M. Miller, Professor of History, Saint Joseph's University, and co-author of Unto a Good Land: A History of the American People


Thousands of words and expressions burst into the American vocabulary between 1900 and 1999, only to fizzle out a few years later as trendier trends and more current events demanded new language. Dewdroppers, Waldos, and Slackers gives yesterday's words another chance to sparkle before they retire to the archives for good.

"For any lexiphile curious to know what Depression-era hobos called the local jail or how the term go ballistic emerged in the 1980s, this guide will be a pleasure."
Publishers Weekly, Dec. 1, 2003.

"A fascinating peek into some long-forgotten corners of American culture."
Sunday Columbus-Dispatch, Dec. 28, 2003

"Seldom has linguistic history been this much fun."
–Dan Hays, Salem Statesman-Journal, Dec. 21, 2003

"A real gem of word books."
–Dave Wilton, A Way with Words, Oct. 1, 2004