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Shaggy Dogs and Black Sheep: The Origins of Even More Phrases We Use Every Day [Hardcover]

Albert Jack
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Sep 2005
The English language is crammed with colourful phrases and sayings that we use without thinking every day. It's only when we're asked who smart Alec or Holy Moly were, where feeling in the pink or once in a blue moon come from, or even what letting the cat out of the bag really means that we realize that there's far more to English than we might have thought. Luckily enough, we now have Albert Jack. And rather than resting on his laurels after the enormous success of Red Herrings and White Elephants, he has continued his search around the world, exploring the origins of hundreds more phrases. The fascinating stories he has uncovered come from the rich traditions of the navy, army and law to confidence tricksters and highwaymen, from the practices of ancient civilizations to Music Hall and pubs. Determined to chase each shaggy dog story to the bitter end, his discoveries are even stranger and more memorable this time round. Shaggy Dogs and Black Sheep is a compulsively readable, highly enlightening look at the phrases we use all the time but rarely consider. From the skin of your teeth to the graveyard shift you'll never speak (or even think) English in the same way again.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; 2nd Impression edition (1 Sep 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140515739
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140515732
  • Product Dimensions: 18.4 x 12.2 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 255,136 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author


Albert Jack is a writer and historian. His first book Red Herrings and White Elephants explored the origins of well-known idioms and phrases and became an international best-seller in 2004. It was serialized in the Sunday Times and remained on their best-seller list for sixteen straight months. He followed this up with a series of other books including Shaggy Dogs and Black Sheep, Pop Goes the Weasel and What Caesar did for my Salad.

Fascinated by discovering the truth behind the world's great stories, Albert has become an expert at explaining the unexplained, enriching millions of dinner table conversations and ending bar room quarrels the world over. He is now a veteran of hundreds of live television shows and thousands of radio programs worldwide. Albert lives somewhere between Guildford in England and Cape Town in South Africa.


LAST MAN IN LONDON albertjackchat (facebook and twitter)

Product Description

From the Inside Flap

Where is the last chance saloon?
Who was Gordon Bennett?
Why isn't red tape black?
Why do we have a hunch, get the cold shoulder or laugh like a drain?
Why do we say skinflint, dressed up to the nines and out of the blue - and, of course, shaggy dog stories and black sheep?

We use these phrases every day and yet have little or no idea where many of them come from. Here, Albert Jack, author of the bestselling Red Herrings and White Elephants, takes us on another rollercoaster ride through the fascinating origins of hundreds of our favourite expressions (and comes up trumps).

About the Author

Albert Jack is a writer and researcher whose passion for solving the mysteries of the English language has taken him through dusty libraries across the world in search of the facts behind the phrases we all take for granted. Normally, however, he lives in Guildford where he divides his time between fast living and slow horses, neat vodka and untidy pubs.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
59 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A FANTASTIC FOLLOW-UP 21 Sep 2005
RED HERRINGS was my favourite book of last year and now (just as my friends were breathing a sigh of relief that I had stopped dragging every conversation round to the weird and wonderful origins of the words we use every day) here comes the sequel and it's even better. Did you know, for instance, that 'buttering someone up' comes from the ancient Hindu custom of throwing globs of clarified butter at the statues of gods; that 'nailing your colours to the mast' came from captains, thinking that they were unlikely to win a sea battle, nailing their flag to the mast so their more cowardly crew couldn't winch it down and surrender; that saying something has 'got legs' comes from wine tasting -- and there's hundreds more stories where those came from... I can't imagine anyone not loving this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Book 31 July 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found this book very interesting althought I thought it would have contained a few more well know sayings. But then again I suppose it is a sequal to a previous book so I guess if you want the full story you need to buy both
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
All the most known phases, Red Herrings & White Elephants is the one to choose. However if you want more, then this book contains more but they are more obscure (less well known). Good though.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great present and interesting 19 Dec 2009
I bought this for my dad for xmas but had a read myself of a few pages, really intresting facts of where saying come from. I was not disappointed as Amazon put a great "look inside" profile so I knew what I was getting.
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By Rexx
Format:Kindle Edition
I recently found this little book languishing on the bookshelf at home, literally gathering dust, and wondered why I hadn't actually read it. So I gave it a go. Within a dozen pages, the reason that I had abandoned the book came back to me...

I ploughed my way through the first section; nautical origins and (bear in mind I am no expert) spotted half a dozen glaring errors, bordering on made up.

Take the first; "caught between the devil and the deep blue sea". Yes, the Devil is a reference to a seam in a ship’s hull. It is the longest seam between planks on a ship to make waterproof and the origin of the phrase "the devil to pay" which refers to the act of hammering new caulking (treated rope to seal the seam) into a seam to make it waterproof. The act of letting out a length of rope is called paying, and paying the devil is having to re-seal the longest and most difficult seam on the ship... not something that was relished by the sailors, hence the phrase.

You can't really tell from the author's attempt to describe its location, but it is traditionally considered to be the one between the top of the last hull plank and the start of the decking, but no you can't “fall into it” and “be trapped halfway down the side of the ship”. What rubbish. In this context it is more likely that it is a reference to the activity of sealing all the seams on the hull, hanging over the hull on a swing like seat, with the lower seams ones putting you close to the waterline and at risk of drowning, while the higher up the hull you get, the closer you get to doing the worst part of the job, the difficult devil seam. Therefore neither extreme is appealing and you are caught between.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shaggy Dog...Black Sheep...Red Herring... 5 April 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An excellent read for anyone who is interested in the origin of everyday phrases that adorn the English language. A fun read and very enjoyable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amusing 26 Sep 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Got this little book on recommendation of sister.It has such a lot of funny things in it.Where expressions come from,funny little sayings,etc.Surprising where all these everyday sayings come from.Read it,its fun reading
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars another fascinating read 1 Mar 2013
By Ian h
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
After reading "Red Herrings & White Elephants" by the same author, it was another book to explain the sources of well-known sayings.. I enjoyed it!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
brill good reading
Published 1 day ago by graham
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
Bought as a present for my father. He loves it and has commented what a good book it is. I also bought another book by the same author which is just as good.
Published 5 days ago by queenie80
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good Publication
Published 1 month ago by Skipper
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great book
Published 2 months ago by Helen RobInon
5.0 out of 5 stars Crossword helper
I have often been unable to remember a phrase, or phrases, when trying to complete a crossword. This book will be a great help plus the explanations of the origins of the phrases... Read more
Published 8 months ago by grace
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting holiday read
Amused me whilst reading on holiday. Will buy previous book as the facts are so interesting.
Good value, came quickly.
Published 8 months ago by Howard Rowland
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
Purchased as a gift and I am informed that it is a great read - perfect for anyone who is interested in the origin of everyday phrases.
Published 9 months ago by Miss_B
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book
Interseting to find out the origins of many common words and phrases . . . . . . . .
Published 18 months ago by kml
5.0 out of 5 stars very funny
Love Albert Jack - Steadily go through all his books, funny and interesting. He explains the history or words some of which you would be surprised and make good stories to tell... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Mr A Garnham
5.0 out of 5 stars very interesting
i have always been interested in where sayings started, so the information giving in the book were very good with lots of information.
Published 21 months ago by helen butler
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