Wednesday, 2 November 2016

'The Accidental Dictionary' by Paul Anthony Jones

You know who you need on your pub quiz team? Paul Anthony Jones, that's who. Seriously, this guy seems to be a fount of all lesser-known obscure yet fascinating wordy facts. 

Some 18 months after the Haggard Hawks language blogger published his book Word Drops (reviewed by me here), Paul Anthony Jones publishes this, his fourth etymology book. This time, his focus is on words that have since done a volte-face, with surprising and often comical results. 

For instance, 'buxom' originally meant 'obedient', a 'penguin' was originally an 'auk', and 'noon' used to mean '3pm' (I think this is an idea we should swiftly return to, I mean, who doesn't need more time in their day?).

Jones' level of detail is commendable and one can only presume this is a man who lives beneath a towering collection of very dusty archaic dictionaries in the British Library. I mean... just how does he find all this stuff out?

Most charming of all? 'Tiddlywink' used to refer to an unlicensed pub. 

There's no need to know any of this... but it sure makes life a lot nicer to find these things out. 

The Accidental Dictionary is published now by Elliott & Thompson.