A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language
‘There’s always an extra connection, another link that joins two words that most of mankind quite blithely believe to be separate’. Erudite, discursive and highly entertaining, Forsyth’s book pursues the etymological pathways from ancient languages and through the twists and (often ribald) turns of English, demonstrating how testicles are linked to testaments and parentheses to codpieces; how the Vikings’ Sedge-Stream relates to Starbuck’s; and how the Zodiac’s Gemini becomes both equal sign and oily beaver.
A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi
Words We Pinched from Other Languages
Chloe Rhodes presides over this entertaining exploration among the legions of words, from aficionado to zeitgeist, that English-speakers have pilfered from across the globe. She delves into their derivations and gives witty examples of their use as well as telling the stories of how and why we absorbed such exotic imports.
The Elements of Eloquence
How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase
Using examples from a vast range of writings, Mark Forsyth presents an amusing and wonderfully erudite guide to the ‘formulas, flowers and figures’ of rhetoric. For each of 39 figures, he explains some that are well-known - hyperbole, paradox, rhetorical questions – and other, less familiar strategies that work their magic behind the scenes, such as diacope in the immortal phrase ‘Bond. James Bond.’
Around the World in 80 Clichés
Overused Expressions from Across the Globe
Exploring the unique ways in which different languages describe universal human experiences, this is a humorous survey of the history and meaning of those catchy idioms, proverbs and expressions that have spread like wildfire. They are arranged under 80 headings, including Mistakes (of which Japanese says that ‘even monkeys fall from trees’) and Overreaction (in Dutch: ‘to shoot a mosquito with a cannon’).
The Stories of Slang
Language at its Most Human
Using his database of 130,000 words and phrases, the lexicographer known as ‘Mr Slang’ explains the origins of some of the most witty, colourful and disreputable expressions in the English language. He takes us into the worlds of boxers, drunken sailors, doctors and lovers, as well as the more literary realms of PG Wodehouse and Shakespeare, that master of the double entendre who is the earliest source for nearly 300 slang terms.
Words of a Feather
An Etymological Exploration of Astonishing Word Pairs
Rooting out etymological links between words that, at first glance, appear to have nothing to do with each other, Graeme Donald unearths much more than simple definitions: an investigation of ‘Achieve’ and ‘Handkerchief’ starts with Roman gladiators and ends with the introduction of snuff; ‘Cockpit’ and ‘Cocktail’ encompass ship’s surgeons in wooden warships and horse-racing; while ‘Panties’ and ‘Pantechnicon’ takes us back to 303 CE and the martyrdom of St Pantaleon.
and Other Oxymorons
From ‘alcohol-free wine’ in the Home Comforts chapter to ‘serially monogamous’ in Uncomplicated Relationships, Simon Brett presents a collection of oxymorons – ‘the undiscovered beauties of the English Language’ – that includes the obvious (‘safe bet’), those that need a bit of explanation (victimless crime), and some tongue-in-cheek (Young Conservative).
Spilling the Beans on the Cat's Pyjamas
Popular Expressions – What They Mean and Where We Got Them
In this book from the Blackboard reference series, Judy Parkinson, author of I Before E (Except After C), presents an A–Z of popular expressions, their meanings and origins. With quotations from sources and anecdotes, she explains the facts – and sometimes theories – behind every saying, including who Methuselah was, how and why people were 'sold down the river' and the Shakespearean source of 'It's all Greek to me'.
A History of the Written Word
‘There is a favoured metaphor for writing’s tangled skein of overlapping figurations: the palimpsest.’ In this history, Matthew Battles reflects on the reasons for writing, its origins and how it is shaped by human peculiarities; and he attempts to untangle the threads of its history, from primitive marks, through cuneiform, Chinese characters, Holy writ and movable type to digital display.
A History of the English Language in 100 Places
In 100 Places
How did the Germanic dialect of a small island become a lingua franca spoken by two billion people across the globe? This compelling guide charts the history of the English language from the earliest texts to the age of Twitter. Attractively illustrated with colour photographs and maps, the book focuses on 100 places that played a key role in the development of the language, from Canterbury – where the Latin alphabet was adopted – to Kolkata, and from Salford to San Francisco.
Codes, Tricks, Spies, Thieves and Symbols
Focusing on arcane and curious aspects of language, Blake's intriguing book 'explores the reasons for obscurity and secrecy, and touches on some of the fascinating beliefs that underlie the constraints on using language freely'. He begins with word games and the former uses of anagrams and palindromes, then discusses topics including riddles, ciphers and codes, secret language in the Bible, allusion, and the 'everyday oblique' such as euphemism and oxymora.
On the Dot
The Speck that Changed the World
Despite the humble origins of its name (Anglo-Saxon for 'the speck at the head of a boil'), the dot has been one of the most versatile players in the history of written communication, to the point where it has become virtually indispensable. In this book, the brothers Humez offer an erudite and entertaining account of this miniscule and much overlooked sign, examining its roles, not only in punctuation, but also in proof-reading, music, mathematics and money, Morse code and Braille, abbreviations and computing. Off-mint.
The Banned List
A Manifesto Against Jargon and Cliche
John Rentoul's polemical essay, which highlights annoyingly pretentious and hackneyed phrases, might make uncomfortable reading for those who exhibit a tendency to issue cast-iron guarantees while pulling out all the stops and proactively strategizing going forward. This is followed by the full 'banned list' of such objectionable locutions, which Rentoul has diligently compiled to save his fellow writers from annoying their readers.
It's Been Said Before
A Guide to the Use and Abuse of Clichés
While most people agree that cliches are to be avoided, there is no general agreement on what is and what is not a cliche: for the lexicographer Orin Hargraves they are 'the sterile offspring of a mind that is not engaged in creativity'. By analysing hundreds of examples, he presents a thorough guide to identifying tired, overused phrases that prompts us to examine how we express our ideas and to construct our speech and writing thoughtfully.
A Practical Linguistic Guide
A unique and engaging approach to the study of Early Modern English, this book provides students with a solid grounding for understanding the language of Shakespeare and its place within the development of English. Johnson covers all aspects of the playwright's language – vocabulary, grammar, sounds, rhetorical structure, etc. – and gives illuminating background information on the linguistic context of the Elizabethan age. The book includes practical exercises and activities, with suggestions for further work.