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.
Dent's Modern Tribes
The Secret Languages of Britain
Hobbies and professions all have their unique and colourful jargon, which is often completely baffling to outsiders. But now Countdown’s resident word expert has decoded these mysterious idioms by interviewing hundreds of members of Britain’s ‘tribes’, from twitchers to spies. Here she presents the idiosyncratic vocabulary that she has learned, so that you too can discover why bin collectors love a ‘Tiffany’, what a publisher means by ‘deckle’ and how ticket inspectors discreetly request back-up.
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.
Ware's Victorian Dictionary of Slang and Phrase
A goldmine for anyone intrigued by the weird and wonderful usages of slang, Ware’s 1909 compilation of ‘Passing English’ is introduced by John Simpson, former Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, who describes it as full of expressions ‘that might never find their way into more straitlaced dictionaries’. As well as words and phrases dating from the late 19th century, including slang from different occupations, sports, countries and ‘street’, Ware explains new idioms such as cads on castors (bicyclists) and the American brownstone fronts (aristocrats).
The Word Detective
A Life in Words: From Serendipity to Selfie
The former chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, John Simpson spent almost four decades immersed in the intricacies of language. His memoir describes the career of a lexicographer who revels in the excitement of historical dictionary work. It is also a celebration of the English language, describing how words come and go; how culture shapes the language we use; and how technology has transformed not only the way we speak and write but also how words are made.
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.
Lingo of No Man's Land
A World War I Slang Dictionary
'Gun fire – a term referring to morning tea.' Compiled by a Canadian soldier in 1918, this dictionary of First World War vocabulary ranges from dry officialese ('intense bombardment') to Tommies' vivid slang ('Boche', 'Blighty' and 'over the top'). While some of the terms are now forgotten, many have become so much part of the language that it seems surprising that they ever required explanation: camouflage, crater, grenade and reconnaissance, to name but a few.
Symbols of China
A colourful and very accessible introduction to Chinese culture, this book comprises concise, well-illustrated and richly informative articles on aspects of the country ranging from natural wonders such as the magical Stone Forest to chop sticks. Beginning with cultural icons, including calligraphy, fengshui and the four auspicious creatures, the book has chapters covering architecture, festivals, daily life, arts and crafts, legends, famous historical figures and the performing arts.
English Gypsy Language
Word-Book of the Romany
In addition to a dictionary of English Romany words, this book includes chapters on Gypsy names, fortune-telling, the London 'Gypsyries' in Wandsworth, Notting Hill and Friars' Mount, folk hero Ryley Bosvil and a collection of Gypsy songs. George Borrow (1803–1881) was a great traveller and translator, whose works included novels, travel writing and pioneering translations of Romany.
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.
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.
Words in Time and Place: Exploring Language Through
the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary
Beginning with 'From swelt to zonk: words for dying', this book follows the semantic development of words in timelines for each of 15 topics, using an extraordinary linguistic tool: The Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary.
It's Been Said Before
A Guide to the Use and Abuse of Clichés
While most people agree that clichés are to be avoided, there is no general agreement on what is and what is not a cliché. For the lexicographer Orin Hargraves they are 'the sterile offspring of a mind that is not engaged in creativity', and 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.
The Dictionary Series
'A browser's paradise', this set comprises four dictionaries: one defines and traces the origins of almost 300 commonly used words from 'accolade' to 'zoo'; another provides detailed explanations of over 400 idioms in current use; English Down the Ages starts from historical events (from 1066 to 1989) and explores how they brought new vocabulary into the language; and Proverbs and Their Origins explains the meaning and usage of 400 proverbs, chosen for their interesting etymologies and stories. Slipcased.
You Say Potato
A Book About Accents
Everyone has an accent, though many of us think that we don't. What does our accent say about us – and what do we assume about other people when we hear theirs? Actor Ben Crystal and his linguist father David travel the world in search of the stories of spoken English, from Shakespeare's accent to the rise and fall of Received Pronunciation. Authoritative and packed with anecdotes, this book celebrates the rich variety of the English language.
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, including suggestions for further work.