Novels with the Most Exclamation Points

The lively exclamation point (referred to as an exclamation mark by the Brits) was introduced in the Middle Ages (400-1400s). It evolved from Medieval scribes who wrote “io” (Latin for “joy”) at the end of a sentence as — you guessed it — an exclamation of joy (as in “My hand is cramped; thank God I have finally reached the end of copying this really boring passage from an obscure and obtuse religious treatise philosophical work that no one is going to read io”). By the late 1400s, the io evolved into its current form (the i moved about the o, and then became a line and dot) in the world of printing. By then the exclamation transitioned from conveying joy to conveying emphasis. Interestingly, although the typewriter was invented in 1868, it took more than a century, until the early 1970s, before the exclamation point had its own dedicated key. In old typewriters, one had to type a period, backspace and type an apostrophe — imagine that!

Although messages on social media are overwhelmingly peppered with exclamation points (everyone is shouting!), the general rule of thumb in formal or professional writing is to use the exclamation point sparingly; that is say, only when appropriate. And there are very few instances when an exclamation point is appropriate; specifically, used in a direct quotation of a exclamatory sentence or used after an interjection. And you typically only need one!

However, students of English are well aware that as soon as you master the rules of English grammar, you are free to break them. And there are plenty of role models in American and English literature (the poster boy, of course, is James Joyce who gives new meaning to run-on sentences devoid of punctuation). In his recently published book, Nabokov’s Favorite Word is Mauve, journalist Ben Blatt used data analysis to provide insight into famous authors and their works. Here are the top ten novels with the most extensive use of exclamation points!:

(Note: numbers in parentheses indicate rate of exclamation points per 100,000 words; thus, a book with a rate of 2,000 exclamation marks per 100,000 words is equivalent to about six exclamation points per page! )

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie: 2,131

Finnegans Wake by James Joyce: 2,102

The Chimes by Charles Dickens: 1,860

The Cricket by Charles Dickens: 1,793

Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis: 1,352

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: 1,351

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence: 1,348

Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe: 1,341

Dodsworth by Sinclair Lewis: 1,274

Read related posts: What is the Longest Book Title in the World?
The World’s Longest Single-Word Book Title
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How Many People Read the Harry Potter Books?
What is the Longest Novel Ever Written?
What is the Longest One Syllable Word in English?
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Nabokov’s Favorite Word is Mauve by Ben Blatt

Names of Things You Didn’t Know Had Names

atkins bookshelf wordsWhat makes the English language so amazingly fascinating is not the words you know — it’s the words you don’t know. In the vast restaurant of the English language, the most delicious words are the ones off the menu, the ones you didn’t even know existed. Those are the words that you truly savor and evoke the response, “Really, there’s actually a word for that?” And word lovers all over the world recognize that cherished moment — just a few seconds, really — when they take delight in the knowledge of an obscure word that very few people know. You know the look — a knowing smile comes over their face, revealing the satisfaction of acceptance into some elite club or secret society. Herewith, Bookshelf presents a list of rare but delightfully delicious morsels for the indulgence of logophiles everywhere:

accismus: when a person pretends to refuse something when they really want it (eg., “I have no room for this appetizing piece of chocolate cake.”)

apthong: the silent letters in words like “know” or “naught”

armsate: the hole in a shirt or jumper through which you put your hand and arm

borborygmus: stomach growling

brannock device: that funky-looking metal device that measures your feet

chanking: food that a person spit out

diastema: the gap between front teeth (famous gap-toothed actors include: Madonna, Woody Harrelson, Jack Black, Elijah Wood, Anna Paquin)

fillip: the technical term for snapping fingers

grawlix: a sequence of typographical symbols to represent a swear word (eg., “What the #*%&!? happened here?!)

griffonage: very bad, illegible handwriting

lalochezia: swearing to relieve pain or stress (used disproportionately by parents of teens)

lemniscate: the infinity symbol

mucophagy: eating the boogers that one picks from their nose (see rhinotillexis)

ophyron: the space between the eyebrows

popliteal: the hollow area behind the knee

rasceta: the creases  on the inside of the wrist

rhinotillexis: nose-picking

sillage: the faint smell of perfume of a person who passes by

tittle: the dot above the letter “i”

tragus: the small lump of flesh just before the ear canal

ucalegon: A neighbor whose house is on fire or has burned down

ullage: the empty space between liquid and the bottle top

What other obscure words should be added to this list?

Read related posts: Top Ten Insults Using Archaic Words
Words Invented by Book Lovers
How Many Words in the English Language?
Words with Letters in Alphabetical Order
What is the Longest Word in English?
There’s a Word for That: Epeolatry

For further reading: Words by Paul Dickson
The Whatchamacallit: Those Everyday Objects You Just Can’t Name by Danny Danziger and Mark McCrum
There are Tittles in this Title by Mitchell Symons

Word Drops by Paul Anthony Jones

Feeling Down? How to Cure the Blues

alex atkins bookshelf cultureEver have one of those days when you are feeling down, feeling blue — and you want to snap out of it, but you don’t know what to do? Before you reach for age-old, but risky quick remedies like alcohol or drugs, you should turn to the most powerful and effective pharmaceutical — your brain. According to Alex Korb, a neuroscience researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles and author of The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time, thinking the right thoughts is the best medicine for curing the blues. Here are five things you can do to harness the healing and uplifting power of the miraculous human brain — and unlike alcohol and drugs, they are absolutely free:

1. Ask yourself one important questions: who or what are you grateful for? Korb notes that feelings of pride and its opposite — shame and guilt — actually activate the same neural circuits in the brain (specifically, the amygdala, dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, insula, and nucleus accumbent if you want to get technical). The antidote is to shift your thinking from shame or guilt to gratitude. Korb states that gratitude and thinking positively activates the parts of the brain that produce the feel-good neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. Korb adds: “It’s not finding gratitude that matters most; it’s remembering to look in the first place. Remembering to be grateful is a form of emotional intelligence. One study found that it actually affected neuron density in both the ventromedial and lateral prefrontal cortex. These density changes suggest that as emotional intelligence increases, the neurons in these areas become more efficient. With higher emotional intelligence, it simply takes less effort to be grateful.”

2. It is important not to suppress your emotions, but rather actively identify and label your emotions. Simply labeling an emotion in a word or two helps us to reduce that emotion. Leadership coach David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long, elaborates: “To reduce arousal, you need to use just a few words to describe an emotion, and ideally use symbolic language, which means using indirect metaphors, metrics, and simplifications of your experience. This requires you to activate your prefrontal cortex, which reduces the arousal in the limbic system”

3. Make a decision about something in your life — a goal, an event, a personal or work-related situation. The decision does not have to be a perfect solution, it just has to be “good enough.” In short, making a decision boosts levels of dopamine, producing pleasure. “Making decisions includes creating intentions and setting goals — all three are part of the same neural circuitry and engage the prefrontal cortex in a positive way, reducing worry and anxiety,” states Korb. “Making decisions also helps overcome striatum activity, which usually pulls you toward negative impulses and routines. Finally, making decisions changes your perception of the world — finding solutions to your problems and calming the limbic system.”

4. Don’t hesitate to ask for a hug. Studies show that emotional pain is experienced just as if it were physical pain in your brain; that is to say, when a couple breaks up, for example, that emotional pain is equivalent to the pain of a broken arm. The antidote to that pain is oxytocin — obtained through touching and hugs. Korb explains: “One of the primary ways to release oxytocin is through touching. Obviously, it’s not always appropriate to touch most people [in a workplace context], but small touches like handshakes and pats on the back are usually okay… In addition, holding hands with someone can help comfort you and your brain through painful situations… A hug, especially a long one, releases a neurotransmitter and hormone oxytocin, which reduces the reactivity of the amygdala.” The ultimate touching experience is a massage, which boasts serotonin and dopamine, as well as decreasing stress hormones.

5. Reminisce and get nostalgic. The literal meaning of nostalgia is the suffering caused by the yearning to return to a person’s place of origin. In 2006, psychologist Tim Wildschut, Constantine Sedikides (University of Southampton), and Jamie Arndt (University of Missouri) conducted a fascinating study focused on nostalgia. Even though nostalgic events, that define the meaning of a person’s life, contain negative elements (emotional pain, disappointments, etc.), people tend to filter them out and focus on a narrative that reflects a positive or triumphant outcome. Wildschut and his colleagues found that nostalgia strengthens social bonds, increases positive self-regard, and generates good feelings.

Read related posts: How to Be Happy
15 Things You Should Give Up to Be Happy
Experiencing Happiness in Life
The Difference Between a Happy Life and a Meaningful Life

The Paradox of the American Dream
The Wisdom of the Ancient Greeks

For further reading: The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time by Alex Korb
Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long
by David Rock
Emotional Intelligence by Travis Bradberry
The Whole Brain Business Book: Unlocking the Power of Whole Brain Thinking in Organizations, Teams, and Individuals by Ned Herrmann
How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker

The Human Brain Book by Rita Carter
Brain: The Complete Mind: How it Develops, How it Works, and How to Keep it Sharp by Michael Sweeney


Doublets: Memory as Literature

atkins-bookshelf-quotations“Every man’s memory is his private literature.”

Alders Huxley (1894-1963), British writer and philosopher. Huxley’s best known work is Brave New World.

“A childhood is what anyone wants to remember of it. It leaves no fossils, except perhaps in fiction.”

Carol Shields (1932-2003), American-born Canadian short story writer and novelist. Her novel, The Stone Diaries, published in 1993, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.


Read related posts: Doublets: Genius
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Doublets: Tolerance
Doublets: The Role of Religion
Doublets: Things Left Unsaid

Top Ten Insults Using Archaic Words

atkins bookshelf wordsTo help people arm themselves against a sea of verbal slings and arrows in the digital world (people on social media can be so mean, as you know), the clever folks at have stepped back into time a century to resurrect archaic words (many that sound Shakespearean) that make excellent comebacks. Next time you feel insulted, toss one of these wonderfully-sounding insults their way. You will feel vindicated and best of all — they won’t know what hit them:

bedswerver: an adulterer

fopdoodle: a person of little significance

gnashnab: someone who just complains all the time

gobermouch: a person who likes to meddle in other people’s business

klazomaniac: someone who can only speak by shouting

scobblelotcher: someone who avoids hard work as if were their job

snoutband: a person who always interrupts a conversation to correct or contradict the person speaking

stampcrab: a clumsy person

whiffle-whaffler: a person who wastes lots of time

zounderkite: an idiot

Read related posts: Words Invented by Book Lovers
How Many Words in the English Language?
Words with Letters in Alphabetical Order
What is the Longest Word in English?
There’s a Word for That: Epeolatry

For further reading:

Phrases and Idioms Related to Eggs

There are many phrases in English that use the literal and metaphorical concept of the egg. Everyone is familiar with the idiom “don’t put your eggs in one basket” — but don’t tell that to the editors of dictionaries (presumably all good eggs), who have literally put all their words into one dictionary. Eggsactly. Since you can’t make a list without turning some pages, here are some common and rare egg-related idioms phrases found by thumbing through the dictionary:


A bad egg: a bad or dishonest person

A curate’s egg: something that is partly good and bad

A good egg: an agreeable or pleasant person

As alike on eggs: synonym of “peas in a pod”; resembling one another

As sure as eggs is eggs (often shortened to “safe as eggs”): definitely

Better an egg today than a hen tomorrow: synonym of “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” It is better to have a sure thing now rather than the possibility of more later

Butter-and-egg man: a prosperous businessman from a small town; a farmer who spends money lavishly when visiting the big city

Chicken and egg: a situation in which it is difficult or impossible to say which of two things existed first and which caused the other one

Egg on one’s face: humiliation; appearing ridiculous or foolish

Nest egg: money saved for an emergency or retirement

To egg on: to encourage

To kill the goose that lays the golden egg: to destroy the reliable source of one’s income

To lay an egg: to fail horribly, especially in front of an audience

To put all one’s eggs in one basket: to risk everything on the success of a single venture

Walk on eggshells: to walk, speak, or act very cautiously

You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs: one cannot accomplish something without adverse effects elsewhere

Read related posts: Words Related to Trump
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Difficult Tongue Twisters
Word Oddities: Fun with Vowels

The Big Book of Beastly Mispronunciations

For further reading:

What is the Most Popular Blogging Topic?

alex atkins bookshelf cultureBloggers develop a considerable amount of content that is published on the internet. Consider that as of 2016, there are more than 250 million blogs online, excluding the all the blogs from Google’s Blogger platform that does not publish statistics. And each month, more than 409 million people read more than 19.7 billion blog pages posted on the WordPress blogging site. The largest portion of blogs is by companies, who realize that blogs are the most effective marketing strategy to promote their products, services, and brands. A survey of businesses indicated that 86% of business to business companies blog, while 77% of business to consumer companies blog.

The balance of the blogs on the internet are written by the hoi polloi. People who blog, generally fall into two camps: those who blog for the fun of it and those who blog to make money. Those who blog to generate income focus on three of the most profitable blogging topics:

1. Heath and Fitness: food, nutrition, weight loss, exercise, mental health, etc.
2. Relationships: parenting advice, relationship advice, dating, marriage, divorce, etc.
3. Finance: making money, managing money, investing, saving, mortgages, real estate, credit cards, etc.

Surprisingly, in a world that is inundated with statistics about every little thing, there is a paucity of research about the most common or popular blogging topics published by individuals pursuing their particular passions. Below is a list of the best or most popular blog topics based on a review of information presented by many blogging experts:

1. Articles that are lists (commonly referred to as listicles); e.g., top ten lists, A to Z lists, best of lists
2. News and political commentary
3. Food and recipes
4. How-to guides, tutorials, or advice; e.g., fashion, health, diet, self-improvement, home repair, fitness, photography, video games, computer software, smartphones, blogging, etc.
5. FAQs
6. Interviews or profiles with experts, leaders, etc. 
7. Personal stories (first person), diaries, or sharing pet stories
8. Philanthropy and volunteering
9. Product reviews; book or movie reviews
10. Video blogs (vlog); audio post (podcast); webinars
11. Short stories (fiction or nonfiction)
12. Travel

Read related posts: Best Writing Advice From Famous Writers
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Best Books for Writers

For further reading:

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