Dr Brewer's classic work of reference, fully revised and updated for the millennium, now available in paperback
Amazon.co.uk Trade-In Store
Did you know you can trade in your old books for an Amazon.co.uk Gift Card to spend on the things you want? Visit the Books Trade-In Store for more details. Special Offer until June 30, 2013: Receive an additional £5 promotional Gift Certificate, when you trade-in at least £10 worth of books. Learn more.
Brewer's is famously, fabulously useless. There is not the remotest possibility that it contains anything you might actually be looking up at the time. In this, it closely resembles that great modern intellectual irritant, the World Wide Web. Where it bests the upstart Web is in its wit, its erudition and in its disposability. Mind you, frustrated users should wield the new edition with caution. Adrian Room has introduced French jargon, inkhorn literary terms and many more historical and fictional characters to the familiar "alms-basket of words".
But it is through the number of extra phrases and quotations that Room truly distinguishes this edition--and who can resist passages of verse like the one which accompanies a new entry for Technogamia, a 1618 play of such mind-crushing tediousness that James I "made several efforts to leave after sitting out the first two acts"? By complete contrast, there's never a dull moment to be had with this great, daft, pointless, wonderful brick of a book. --Simon Ings --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
I then took the book to bed and proceeded to read it cover to cover (not at one sitting I hasten to add). I know of no other reference books with which one could do this without eventually dying of fatigue or terminal boredom. I emerged exalted, educated and converted. There may be little logic or reason behind the eclectic, eccentric, inconsistent criteria for inclusion and exclusion but, once you have grasped the spirit, if not the law, behind them you will fall in love with the book, occasional inaccuracies and all. This explains why it defies the internet, literary competition and remains in print to this day, loved like a faithful if slightly dippy ancient family dog by all those who have taken the time to explore between its idiosyncratic pages.
Highly recommended, but beware! Exercise caution. Dip into it when you have plenty of time to spare or be prepared to employ more self-discipline than I've yet managed -- harden your resolve and snap it shut when you've found the information you were seeking (if you're will-power is strong enough).
The references inside cover a multitude of different things. There are references to mythology, ancient history, everyday expressions, and new or relatively new words that creep into the language - words like Paparazzi, or Godzilla. The book is really a mix of language and general knowledge.
There are entries for real people, and also for characters from legends, fairy tales and plays. If you're like me and are full of useless information and trivia, then you'll love this book, because it's full of stuff like that. This is where it differs from an ordinary dictionary, or encyclopaedia. You can pick it up any time and find something of interest. Many of the entries are like very short synopses or stories in their own right. This book is a great tool for anyone needing a prompt, or ideas, to write an essay, or article. Because of it's broad range of subjects and the way they are presented.
Open the book at any page and something will catch your eye. You'll find yourself saying, "I didn't know that" or " Oh that's why we say that"
The book is well laid out and each entry includes the origin of the phrase or word. It's a large book at almost 1300 pages but it does cover an awful lot of different subject areas. While it is basically sold as a reference book it's far more than that, it's also enjoyable and good fun to read.
Not a cheap book to buy, but well worth it for those who have any interest or pride in the English language.
Then there's the reassuring wieght of the book. This hefty door-stop belies an incredible weight of publishing history (the book has been developed through successive editions from 1870) and information. And what information. This is a truly unique cultural compendium of events, organisations, names, and characters, all of which cross and re-cross various boundaries, such as the worlds of fact and fiction. The book encourages strangely enriching journeys through its' contents. As you follow up a reference for some phrase or name, you'll get hooked by a cross-reference, or your eye will be caught by something completely unrelated. Either way you'll be spent spinning on various weird and wonderful tangents. Also useful and entertaing are quotations and illustrations which put the information in context.
Its' uses must be diverse. From my own experience as a habitual crossword solver, it's shed light on some clues that, for example pre-suppose a knowledge of 'Giotto's O' (see page 496) and of the nature of a 'Tail-end Charlie' (see page 1150)!
Terry Pratchett in his short foreword gives a witty and illuminating decription of the books' unique character. It is, he says, "'An Education' in the truest sense."