Around the World in 80 Words

Around the World in 80 Words

Paul Anthony Jones
ARRSE Rating
4 Mushroom Heads
At this time of year I get books which have no real niche and are fun books aimed at the Christmas stocking. There is nothing at all wrong with that as I often get lovely books which take a gentle trip round the English language – and this book is one such.

The title and strap line don’t really match but together give a flavour of the book’s contents. The words are from or used in and about 80 countries in the world which have become part of the English lexicon and have, at one point or other, been in fairly common usage, or at least enough to get into the English dictionaries.

Not all are words or sayings in that one, from Iraq “Appointment in Samarra” is not so much a word, or even a phrase, but a complete Middle East fable. But hey, what is a book about language if a bit of poetic licence is forbidden!

Other words will get the average Arrsers sitting up a bit as they search the Contents for juicy words. The one that springs to mind is from Sofia in Bulgaria and is “buggery”. Now please lift your minds out of the gutter as the original meaning of the word is not that which is used today but is… well you will just have to get the book! The phrase, as used in the 1330s about Kings and Popes “and lyved in bugerie” has a very different meaning to today.

Now it is easy for an author to come up with a list of words and the countries from which they are thought, or even known, to originate and that would fulfil the premise of the title. However, this author goes well beyond that. Take the word “port” for instance. Most of us will know that the name of the wine comes from the Portuguese town of Porto. Yep, that would be the easy way out but Jones goes much further than that and in three and a half pages the author takes us through the usage of the word “portuguese” which apparently was British naval slang for any furriner except the French; whereas a “Portuguese parliament” was a discussion at which everyone spoke at the same time listening to nobody else – another situation that may be familiar to some Arrsers! “Portuguese pumping” stumps the author a bit but he has made assumptions that it is either defecating or masturbating, I will leave the actual meaning to you, dear reader.

The point being is that the author has gone to great lengths to being you not only the word in question but a whole host of useful (?) information surrounding the word.

Round the World, well that is what this does in a meandering way. Starting off in London it travels up into northern Europe, down across central Europe to the Mediterranean, back up the Balkans through Russia to the Middle East, Asia, Far East across to Alaska then surprisingly down to South America before returning to USA for the final journey across the Atlantic via Iceland, landing in Ireland and working its way back with the last stop being Porlock in Somerset.

Now the sharp reader who has been following this will note that the Journey started in London and like the original Round the World in 80 days should end in London, but the author has used up his 80 words. What does he do? Well he has an Epilogue from London which finishes off the journey – not this first bit of poetic licence/ sleight of hand. The book covers 80 words or sayings, from 65 countries and six continents and due to its snaking course, a total of approx. 70,000 miles. Not a bad journey for the English language. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and picking up some new words and certainly some new meanings and if the study of our language is your thing then this is a must for your Christmas wish-list.

4 Mr MRHs

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