Thursday, 25 October 2018

'Around The World in 80 Words'

What staggers me most of all about linguist Paul Anthony Jones is how on earth he finds the time to research and write so many books about so many obscure facets of the English language, while also running the popular Haggard Hawks social media feeds (from where I pinched the above photo of his new book). The guy is prolific!

Jones' most recent book is Around the World in 80 Words, which was published on 25 October by Elliott & Thompson. And as the title of the book suggests, and the back cover blurb confirms, this is "a whimsical voyage through the far-flung reaches of the English language".

Having previously written books including 2015's Word Drops and last year's The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities, we can take it as read that when it comes to words, Jones knows what he's on about. And Around the World in 80 Words is tightly packed with facts, details and intense geographical etymological research. (There's a phrase I never expected to type!)

We start in London, as Jones tells us the origins of the phrase 'Kent Street ejectment' and whizzes the reader around the British capital to bring us from 18th century Southwark to the Shard in modern day London to tell us the answer. Elsewhere, we travel to Monaco to learn about the 'Monte Carlo fallacy', which is a story beginning in the 1850s and ending in a casino in 1913, as only a true life tale set in Monaco could. Other stops on this exhaustive tour of the world include China (where 'Xanadu' is our goal), Italy (where the root of 'magenta' is found in a tale of warfare), and Iran (where we spin back to the ancient world to begin unpicking the origins of the word 'parthian').

It's an utterly fascinating, fun and absorbing collection of all those words in the dictionary we owe to our maps and atlases. Jones knows what he's talking about and he knows how to tell a story without bogging readers down in the unnecessary extras. 

For fans of obscure facts, tongue twisting words and literary oddities, anything written by Paul Anthony Jones is a treat. And Around the World in 80 Words will not disappoint. 

You can read a sample chapter from the book on the Haggard Hawks website.

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