Willard R. Espy
|Willard R. Espy|
December 11, 1910|
|Died||February 20, 1999
New York City
|Genre||light verse, local history|
|Notable works||An Almanac of Words at Play, Oysterville: Roads to Grandpa's Village|
Willard Richardson Espy (December 11, 1910 – February 20, 1999) was a US editor, philologist, writer, poet, and local historian. He was the best-known collector of and commentator on word play of his time, and is also particularly remembered for his national bestseller Oysterville: Roads to Grandpa's Village.
Espy was born in Olympia, Washington (state) in 1910 and raised in the coastal village of Oysterville which had been founded by his grandfather, R. H. Espy, in 1854. Espy graduated from the University of Redlands in 1930, after which he spent a year abroad, enrolling at the Sorbonne in Paris. He was hired by Reader's Digest in 1941 and spent the next sixteen years working there in various positions, including as promotion director. His writing career took off in the late 1960s; he eventually authored fifteen books on language, and his poetry and articles regularly appeared in Punch, Reader's Digest, The Atlantic Monthly, The Nation, and Word Ways: The Journal of Recreational Linguistics. His light verse has been compared to that of Lewis Carroll, W. S. Gilbert, Ogden Nash and Cole Porter.
Later in life he split his time between Manhattan and Oysterville, and wrote nationally bestselling books on local history, including Oysterville: Roads to Grandpa's Village (1977) and Skulduggery on Shoalwater Bay (1998). Two of his books on wordplay, The Game of Words and An Almanac of Words at Play, were honored at the Governor's Writers Day Awards (now the Washington State Book Awards).
- The Game of Words (1971) (ISBN 0-7234-0173-X)
- Oysterville: Roads to Grandpa's Village (1976) (ISBN 0-517-52196-2)
- The Game of Words (1972) (ISBN 0-448-01196-4)
- Omak Me Yours Tonight, or, Ilwaco million miles for one of your smiles: A Ballard of Washington State (1973) (ISBN 0-9634294-1-8)
- An Almanac of Words at Play (1975) (ISBN 0-517-52463-5)
- The Life and Works of Mr. Anonymous (1977) (ISBN 0-380-45047-X)
- O Thou Improper, Thou Uncommon Noun (1978) (ISBN 0-517-53511-4)
- Say it My Way: How to avoid certain pitfalls of spoken English together with a decidedly informal history of how our language rose (or fell) (1980) (ISBN 0-14-005733-1)
- Another Almanac of Words at Play (1981) (ISBN 0-233-97288-9)
- The Wars of the Words (1980)
- A Children's Almanac of Words at Play (1982) (ISBN 0-340-34852-6)
- Have A Word on Me: A Celebration of Language (1984) (ISBN 0-671-25255-0)
- Espygrams: Anagram Verse (1982) (ISBN 0-517-54598-5)
- Word Puzzles: Anagrams from America's Favorite Logophile (1983) (ISBN 0-934878-31-5)
- The Garden of Eloquence: A Rhetorical Bestiary (1983) (ISBN 0-06-181256-0)
- Espygrams II: 80 New Anagram Verses (1984) (ISBN 0-517-54757-0)
- Words to Rhyme With (1986) (ISBN 0-8160-4313-2)
- The Word's Gotten Out (1989) (ISBN 0-517-07940-2)
- Skullduggery on Shoalwater Bay (1998)
- The Best of An Almanac of Words at Play (1999) (ISBN 0-87779-145-7)
- Nilsen, Alleen; Nilsen, Don (November 6, 2008). "Literature and humor". In Raskin, Victor. The Primer of Humor Research. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 243–280. ISBN 978-3-11-018616-1.
- Willard R. Espy (1999). The Best of An Almanac of Words at Play. Merriam-Webster.
- Thomas, Robert McG., Jr. (February 25, 1999). "Willard Espy, Who Delighted in Wordplay, Is Dead at 88". The New York Times.
- Eckler, A. Ross (2010). "Look back!". Word Ways: The Journal of Recreational Linguistics. 43 (3): 228–229.
- "Governor's Writers Day Awards at the Washington State Library, 1966–2000". WA State Library. Washington Secretary of State. Retrieved November 23, 2014.
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