Every work of literature relies on the dictionary. Many writers would say that the goal of fiction is to use powerful words to tell a story without calling attention to the words themselves. A small number of books, however, actually make words, meaning, and language their plot or even transform the workings of language into characters. This practice is called meta-fiction, and today we pay tribute to one meta-fictional work that famously stretches readers’ minds while making them laugh.

This year The Phantom Tollbooth turned 50—much older than its average reader. When it was first published, no one thought the smart, playful book would appeal to children, but author Norman Juster’s exploration of knowledge still resonates with children who find his puns and simple but insightful story meaningful.

You may think of puns as playful slips of language that make you groan, but The Phantom Tollbooth takes those moments where sound stops and meaning begins and creates an entire ridiculous world. Paronomasia is the technical word for “the use of a word in different senses or the use of words similar in sound to achieve a specific effect, as humor.” In short, punning. Not only does the humor in the book rely on language games, but the plot is actually propelled by them.

The Phantom Tollbooth follows a boy named Milo as he journeys through the magical Kingdom of Wisdom. This kingdom has two capital cites: Dictionopolis and Digitopolis. Dictionopolis, where all the world’s words and letters are traded, is ruled by King Azaz the Unabridged. On the opposite end of the kingdom, Digitopolis is ruled by the Mathemagician. Young princesses Rhyme and Reason were banished from the kingdom by King Azaz the Unabridged and the Mathemagician because the princesses said that numbers and letters were equally important to knowledge. It is Milo’s duty to reunite the kings of the opposing cities. Along the way, Milo meets memorable characters like the Humbug, a beetle-like insect, and the Whether Man, who doesn’t know whether it will rain or hail but only whether or not there will be weather. (How’s that for a tongue twister?)

Like Alice in Wonderland, The Phantom Tollbooth takes an impish look at how words define the world, testing the boundaries of meaning, but it also lays out a view of the world as it is: language and science are both essential to wisdom. The magical element of The Phantom Tollbooth isn’t the puns and the word play, but Juster captures our complex world and lays it simply down in the landscape of an imaginary one. So he gives us the Lands Beyond, where fantastical ideas that cannot live in the real world flourish. He introduces us to the fractional boy, who is the 0.58 of the 2.58 children in the average American family.

This book continues to delight children because it encourages kids to think without being condescending or pedantic. Put simply, it doesn’t lecture, but rather invites us to have fun with the building blocks of our world: letters and numbers.

Have you read The Phantom Tollbooth? Did it make you think about words and the world in a new way?

C-Sections Linked to Doubled Risk for Blood Clots; Steps should be taken to prevent and monitor for clots in women at risk, experts say.

Consumer Health News (English) August 26, 2011 FRIDAY, Aug. 26 (HealthDay News) — The risk of thromboembolism — a potentially fatal condition in which blood clots block blood flow causing damage to the organs — is higher during pregnancy, experts warn.

And having a Caesarean section nearly doubles that risk, according to experts at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. As a result, the group issued a new recommendation that all women having a C-section wear inflatable compression devices on their legs at the time of delivery to prevent clots from forming. In more risky cases, the group advised that women also receive anti-clotting medications (anticoagulants).

“VTE [venous thromboembolism] is a major contributor to maternal mortality in this country. The risk of VTE is increased during pregnancy and the consequences can be severe,” Dr. Andra H. James, who helped develop the guidelines, said in a college news release. “It’s important for ob-gyns to adopt these recommendations to help reduce maternal deaths.” VTE in pregnancy usually affects the deep veins of the left leg. Most women who develop clots in their lower legs will experience pain or swelling there, the authors noted. in our site pulmonary embolism symptoms

Clots could also travel to the lungs resulting in a pulmonary embolism. Symptoms of this other potentially deadly condition include sudden shortness of breath, chest pain and coughing.

Pregnant women are at greater risk for VTE due to certain physiological changes they experience, including:

Blood that clots more easily Slower blood flow Compression of pelvic and other veins Decreased mobility In addition, women who have high blood pressure, a personal history of VTE or excessive clotting, as well as those who are obese or smokers are also at higher risk for the condition.

“Fitting inflatable compression devices on a woman’s legs before cesarean delivery is a safe, potentially cost-effective preventive intervention,” explained James. “Inflatable compression sleeves should be left in place until a woman is able to walk after delivery or — in women who had been on blood thinners during pregnancy — until anticoagulation medication is resumed.” The ob-gyn group pointed out that emergency c-sections are the exception. In these cases, delivery should not be delayed for the placement of compression devices. go to website pulmonary embolism symptoms

Only women at particularly high risk for VTE should be given anti-clotting medication, the experts noted in the news release. This includes those with a history of VTE during pregnancy, a history of excessive clotting, and women at high risk for inherited clotting disorders. All women who’ve had c-sections, however, should continue to be monitored for VTE following delivery, the group added.

“Because half of VTE-related maternal deaths occur during pregnancy and the rest during the postpartum period, ongoing patient assessment is imperative,” James concluded. “While warning signs in some women may be evident early in pregnancy, others will develop symptoms that manifest later in pregnancy or after the baby is born.” The guidelines will be published in a Practice Bulletin in the September issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

More information The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute provides more information on thromboembolism.


  1. Jim -  January 5, 2012 - 9:28 pm

    Sounds like an interesting read

  2. Scott Ross -  December 27, 2011 - 9:27 pm

    After reading this post I was intrigued. I was just finishing the Alice in Wonderland books and thought this would be a good classic to continue with. I picked up a copy and devoured it. In my opinion the Phantom Tollbooth is better than Alice and I thank Dictionary.com for a very fulfilling read. The Phantom Tollbooth is a book I won’t easily forget and I recommend it to anyone who sometimes loses sight of the importance of learning and enjoys colourful characters and even more colourful scenes.

  3. Shannon -  December 20, 2011 - 9:00 am

    Sounds like a cool book I’ll read it to by 7-year-old kid brother; he’ll need to learn that kind of basic math and reading but with all the fun along with it.

  4. Pig Lover -  December 19, 2011 - 8:59 pm

    Just to be honest, I have only read this book once. I’ve enjoyed reading this with my teacher and classmates at school. As I started reading this book, I imagined what those characters looked like and how they acted based on what I read and the descriptions that Justin made about them…..
    I think that this book is 5 starred book.

  5. DEMACIA!!!!! -  December 19, 2011 - 1:04 pm

    Remember the island called Conclusions? Don’t jump to Conclusions! LOL I loved that book.

  6. avid reader -  December 14, 2011 - 2:29 pm

    I’ve always absolutely loved The Phantom Tollbooth, but another of Juster’s books is my all-time favorite. It’s a clever little book with a big title:

    The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics

    Check it out–I know you’ll love it, too!

  7. sherryyu -  December 14, 2011 - 2:12 pm

    kool but i never read the book

  8. fateha -  December 13, 2011 - 10:12 pm

    shhh. because it goes without saying.

  9. King Viz -  December 13, 2011 - 8:57 am

    Also, I just coined “beofre” apparently, my new word for “before”!

  10. King Viz -  December 13, 2011 - 8:56 am

    “…it encourages kids think…” does this make sense? It looks like there’s a “to” missing beofre “kids”, but when I thought about it again I can see this sentence standing as it does, whether intended or not, as there is an implied “that” after “encourages”. Is that correct?

  11. bossrat -  December 12, 2011 - 12:52 pm

    ‘Norton’ not ‘Norman’ !

  12. Dovahkiin -  December 12, 2011 - 12:20 pm

    @Jeff: Meeeee!

  13. Linda -  December 12, 2011 - 12:19 pm

    This is my all-time, absolute favorite book, EVER! I have read it multiple times, and at age 51, I purchased the hardback anniversary edition, for me!! In my family, some of Juster’s phrases are a common part of our language. For instance, we often remind one another not to jump to conclusions, because it is a long swim back! If you haven’t read the book, what are you waiting for? If you have, read it again. This book is a jewel. :D

  14. Elise -  December 12, 2011 - 10:57 am

    This book continues to be my favorite of all time! Read it when I was little, read it when I was old — the charm and hilariousness never faded! I would recommend it in a heartbeat to everyone!

  15. CallYourMom -  December 12, 2011 - 10:41 am

    Absolutely LOVE this book! Anyone with a love for language cannot help but be charmed by this funny and insightful tale. Thank you for highlighting this wonderful book.

  16. Moya -  December 12, 2011 - 10:21 am

    This is one of my favourite books of all time. I read it as a child and am sure that it’s entirely responsible for my love of language. I’ve bought it twice (I made the mistake of lending it out the first time) and have read it three or four times as an adult. I’m sure I’ll continue to revisit it as I get older.

    Love, love, love this book!

  17. jeff -  December 12, 2011 - 10:03 am

    whos home schooled

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