Virtual book event at Literati Bookstore to focus on expressions, word games Monday night

‘So to Speak’ explores 11,000 expressions from ‘going postal’ to ‘cut a rug’

Categorized notes by Harold and Shirley Kobliner. Photo courtesy of Beth Kobliner. (Jon Wroble (Alucitra))

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – You’ve heard of “look before you leap” and “lend a hand” but what about “rolling in dough” or “not my forte”?

At 7 p.m. on Monday, New York Times bestselling author Beth Kobliner will introduce audiences to the 11,000 expressions in her parents’ book, “So to Speak: 11,000 Expressions That’ll Knock Your Socks Off.”

Assembled over the course of 13 years, the book is the manifestation of Harold and Shirley Kobliner’s collective love for words, learning and language.

Kobliner said the idea for the book took shape after her parents, a former chemistry teacher and principal, volunteered to read books to a class of young children. After answering questions and explaining the expression “ants in your pants,” the idea for the book took root.

“They never used Google to find an expression and they never looked at other expressions,” said Kobliner, “They were really strict about it.”

Shirley Kobliner (left) and Harold Kobliner (right) were married for 65 years, 13 of which were spent collecting expressions for their book, "So To Speak: 11,000 Expressions That’ll Knock Your Socks Off." Photo courtesy of Beth Kobliner. (Jon Wroble (Alucitra))

Each chronicled expression is something the Kobliners heard, whether that was at the grocery store, in conversation or on the radio. Notes in Harold’s handwriting are even printed on the inside cover of the book to illustrate his and Shirley’s devotion to their project.

Kobliner said that her parents, who were married for 65 years, enjoyed the art of conversation and listening, and wanted to show the fun side of language.

During the free event with Literati, Kobliner will discuss how her parents assembled such a large collection and their process for organizing what they heard into 67 categories.

She will also show some of the 351 illustrations in “So to Speak” and then treat audience members to some word games.

Although it’s a hefty collection, the book isn’t just for word nerds. Kobliner said older generations seem to love the memories certain expressions bring back, while younger people have fun using new expressions at game nights.

She added that her parents wanted their book to be a catalyst for conversation and that, particularly during the pandemic, the book gets people talking.

An author herself, Kobliner has written two books and numerous publications on finance. She was appointed by President Obama to serve on the Advisory Council on Financial Capability and lead efforts for assembling a finance resource website for parents and children.

“So to Speak: 11,000 Expressions That’ll Knock Your Socks Off” is available for $16.99 through Literati, which has hosted over 200 authors at its virtual At Home with Literati event series.

Join the free event here on Monday night.

Play online word games and learn more about the book at

Beth Kobliner will be hosted by Ann Arbor's Literati Bookstore on Monday, Feb. 8 in support of her parents' book "So To Speak:11,000 Expressions That’ll Knock Your Socks Off." Photo courtesy of Beth Kobliner. (Jon Wroble (Alucitra))

About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.