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The Accidental Dictionary

Paul Anthony Jones
It is the time of year when I start to get books which are quirky in nature and aimed at the “Christmas Stocking” market. This is one of those. The author has taken words and phrases we use in normal speech and researched their origins, many with surprising results. This is the sort of book that certain ARRSErs would love as they can use it when on full pedant mode.

The book is laid out alphabetically and starts with “Affiliate” which apparently meant originally ‘to adopt a child’. Each word or phrase then has quite a bit of background information explaining how this change came about, as far as can be ascertained. The final word is “Zombie” which meant ‘the part of a soul which could be removed by black magic’; so some explanations are not too far from today’s common usage.

There are some quaint ones and some surprising ones and the book is a delight to read. A couple of examples are “Buxom – originally just meant obedient”, that could be fun to use in the old form! “Hanky-panky – sleight of hand”, “Queen – originally just meant wife”. There are 100 words and definitions with explanation ending with a Bibliography should you feel you would like to explore further.

A niche book, fun to have on the bookshelf and possibly a good extra Christmas present (yes it is getting closer) for the pedant in your life {even if it is you!}.

3/5 Mr MRHs for a bit of fun.

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