Roy Blount Jr. is a famous American humorist. But that clipped description is kind of like saying that Paris is simply an inland French city: The outline is accurate as far as it goes, but it leaves out all of the captivating details. Blount is also a sportswriter, actor, screenwriter, comedian, lecturer, political commentator, playwright, and magazine writer. He is, in a phrase, tough to pigeonhole.
In a 40-year career, he has interviewed sage novelist Eudora Welty, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, black baseball legend Cool Papa Bell, and fan-dancer Sally Rand. A longtime resident of Decatur, Ga., and a leading interpreter of Southern ways, he nonetheless now lives in western Massachusetts. He's also a regular panelist on the NPR radio quiz show "Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me!" Globe colleague Charlie Pierce, a fellow panelist, says that Blount, in addition to his better-known talents, also "knows by heart more songs about food than anyone else alive."
Blount, who has written 21 books, is in Cambridge Tuesday, Oct. 28, to talk about his latest, a look at the oddities of the English language with the exhaustive, tongue-twisting title "Alphabet Juice: The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret Parts, With Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory.'' The show goes on at 7 p.m. at the Brattle Theatre, 40 Brattle St. Tickets are $27, but include a copy of the book. For reservations, call 617-661-1515.