Archive for the ‘language’ Category


Published: 13 October 2016
Reviewed: 30 November 2016

5 out of 5  stars

Copy supplied by Elliott & Thompson



How well do you know your words?

Buxom used to mean obedient
A cloud was a rock
Raunchy originally meant dirty

Brimming with hidden histories and tantalising twists, The Accidental Dictionary tells the extraordinary stories behind ordinary words.

Our everyday language is full of surprises; its origins are stranger than you might think. Any word might be knocked and buffeted, subjected to twists and turns, expansions and contractions, happy and unhappy accidents. There are intriguing tales behind even the most familiar terms, and they can say as much about the present as they do the past.

Busking, for instance, originally meant piracy. Grin meant to snarl. A bimbo was a man, nice meant ignorant, glamour was magic and a cupboard was a table…

Focusing on 100 surprising threads in the evolution of English, The Accidental Dictionary reveals the etymological origins and quirky developments that have led to the meanings we take for granted today. It is a weird and wonderful journey into words.

So, let’s revel in its randomness and delight in its diversity – our dictionary is indeed accidental.

My Thoughts & Review:

I never thought I would see the day that I would be reviewing a dictionary.  Dictionaries are books that live on the shelf, usually forgotten about and only ever used to win a game of scrabble or to settle an argument over the spelling or meaning of a word.  With the advancements in modern technology, we no longer need to know how to spell, we have gadgetry that does that for us – be it smartphones, computers etc.  But this dictionary is different, instead of the ubiquitous ‘aardvark’ at the beginning, we begin with the word ‘affiliate’ and explore the original use of the word all the way to the current uses in a light and carefree tone.

What struck me most about this book is the fact that some of the words contained within the beautifully designed covers are ones we use everyday and few of us know the true meanings of these words.  Take for instance, ‘fetish’, it originally meant ‘talisman’, the author takes care to research the first uses of the word to ensure accuracy as well as making this a very interesting read.  I particularly enjoyed ‘Tiddlywink’, ‘Ragamuffin’ and ‘Refrigerator’, words I would never have considered to have any other meaning that the ones we know of today.

This is the perfect book for fans of language, people who thrive on knowing the unique meanings of words, the origins and the history of phrases.  I would thoroughly recommend this book, it’s a fascinating read and one that you don’t have to read all in one sitting to appreciate it.  In fact, I dipped in and out of this one over the course of a week, reading a few entries at a time means you don’t feel bogged down with information  but still appreciate the time and work that went into this book.   The writing is humorous, but clear and concise.

Probably one of my favourite books this year and one that I will be sure to return to many times.

You can buy a copy of The Accidental Dictionary here.


About the Author:

Paul Anthony Jones was born in South Shields in 1983. He is the author of four books: ‘The British Isles: A Trivia Gazetteer’ (2012); both ‘Haggard Hawks & Paltry Poltroons’ (2013) and its sequel, ‘Jedburgh Justice & Kentish Fire’ (2014); and language fact book ‘Word Drops’ (2015). ‘Haggard Hawks’ has since been featured in both The Guardian and The Huffington Post, and has spawned its own popular word-related Twitter account, @HaggardHawks, which was named one of Twitter’s best language accounts by Mental Floss magazine in 2014. The daily word and language facts of the @HaggardHawks account inspired ‘Word Drops: A Sprinkling of Linguistic Curiosities’, published by Elliott & Thompson in April 2015.

Besides his interest in etymology and language, Paul is also a classically trained pianist. He lives in Jesmond in Newcastle upon Tyne, where he drinks far too much coffee and reads far, far too many books.

Courtesy of Amazon


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For a City girl, living in the country is strange.

It’s quiet for a start, and that’s just not “normal” in my book.

Granted,  you hear the rumble of tractors and their trailers passing through the village, and you hear kids playing in the local park sometimes but there’s no planes overhead, no traffic, no people, no sirens and no general buzz like there is in the City.  And I’m not sure I like that.

 (Image: http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/deer/maud/images/memorial-450.jpg)

It doesn’t help that out here they don’t speak English….well in any recognisable form.  I’m all for local dialects and regional accents, I love language and still trying to add to my repertoire (still trying to learn Russian when I get a chance), but out here I just don’t stand a chance understanding what’s said half the time!

  (Image: http://media.scotslanguage.com/library/image/medium/blank%2Bmuckle.JPG)

If you want a linguistic chuckle, might I suggest looking at the Doric Guide pdf on this website
Doric guide it gives a painful idea of the words used out here and what they mean, granted not all teuchter words are listed!

Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice being out here, but at the same time its infuriatingly still.  I’ve been out with the pram so many times and can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen someone (hell I’d be able to count it even if I lost a few fingers!).  Its fair to say that not a lot happens in small villages, unless you’re part of the “in crowd” and know everyone and all their plans. I think whilst monkey child is still small it will be hard being in a small community, as there’s little you can really do here with under 1s.  Once she’s nursery school age and primary school age things will be easier as she will be going off and forming her own friendships and meeting her peers.  Whereas at the moment, the eternal introvert she has for a mother is hesitant to join in.  I touched upon the idea briefly in a previous post that moving house whilst pregnant to a rural setting was hard, and this is very true.
Pregnancy is hard work, moving house is hard work (unless both coincide at the same time and you’re due to give birth 4 weeks after you move so you’re not allowed to do anything but make the tea and rest), but settling in to a new community is hard.  Suddenly you’re surrounded by new people, a new place and its all oh so unfamiliar, throw in the new baby and hey presto you feel like you’re in the setting of a Tim Burton movie!  It’s almost like being the new kid at school, everyone you encounter is polite enough, but you can’t help but feel like people are trying to work out who you are and what your story is.  And if I could understand half of what they say I’d be more than happy to tell them, but alas they start with the local speak and I’m at a loss.  I can’t wait for monkey baby to grow up so she can translate for me.

I love my house, I love that my little one can grow up in such a safe surrounding and I love the fact that this wee village is walk-able on foot so nothing is ever too far away, but at the same time I miss the City.  I miss the convenience of the City, I miss the sites (and what bloody sites they were!), I don’t miss the smells of the City (especially if the wind was blowing in the wrong direction!) I miss being surrounded by people I could understand!

(Image: http://www.visitscotland.com/cms-images/5×3-large/regions/aberdeen-city-shire/the-granite-city)

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