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Why is Q Always Followed by U?: Word-Perfect Answers to the Most-Asked Questions About Language Hardcover – 2 Jul 2009

7 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Particular Books (2 July 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846141842
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846141843
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,033,773 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Quinion (1942-) has been a BBC studio manager and radio producer, an audio-visual and video producer, museum curator, tourism consultant, computer software writer, website developer, lexicographer and etymologist, and sometimes feels a little tired.

Quite by accident he became involved in the work of the Oxford English Dictionary in 1992 and has down the years provided more than 175,000 examples of new or unusual words to help revise the work. From the museum - the Cider Museum in Hereford - came his two little books on English cider making; the rest of his books derive from his etymological research.

These days, he concentrates on writing a newsletter, World Wide Words, and its accompanying website (; in 2014, after more than 18 years and 900 weekly issues of the newsletter, he calculated that he had written the equivalent of at least three more books for it and decided to ease off a bit by producing it less frequently.

Product Description


'He tracks down a phrase and pins it down with a wit as sharp as a tack' Metro 'Like being drawn into a great detective story, full of red herrings and bogus alibis' Mail on Sunday 'A marvellous and original book, erudition without tears' Spectator

About the Author

Michael Quinion, author of the bestselling Port Out, Starboard Home, has always been fascinated by language. His lexophilia really began in earnest in 1991, when, realising so many new words were missing from the Oxford English Dictionary, he started sending examples of them to the editors. He eventually became an official freelance reader and in the past sixteen years, he has sent in over 160,000 citations. Not satisfied with merely helping the OED, Michael Quinion set up his own language website in 1997, The site has become a huge success as people all over the world ask Michael to tease out the truth behind the quirks of our language.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By James Renals on 9 Oct. 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've bought several of Michael Quinion's books and subscribe to his weekly newsletter. I wasn't surprised, therefore, to find I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It explains what (for example) "bulls and bears" on the stoke exchange, and "fair cop" in the movies means, rather than a guide to spelling.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By RickR on 12 April 2010
Format: Hardcover
A quick and fun read. I laughed aloud at a number of points - and actually learned a bit about some words and phrases along the way. Entertaining and recommended.

Downside: a number of queries about meanings or origins had a response that devolved to the equivalent of, "Don't know."

Re: Ordering, shipping and receipt were easy and quick. It also seems Amazon maintains a global sign-on that helps.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Another interesting book from Michael Quinion on word & phrase origins.

The difference to many other books on the subject is that you know the entries are properly researched.

Seek out Michael Quinion's other books, and visit his website <> where you can find a search function if there are any etymologies you'd like to check.

I'd also recommend subscribing to his weekly newsletter, which you can do via the website.

The 2-star review here 'Non-answers to questions' completely misses the point. My reply to that review was:
I don't buy linguistic works to plough through..." ... bunkum, hearsay and under-researched 'facts & trivia' that appear to be copied from e-mail chains. I want to read books on word and phrase history that provide investigations and give full explanations.

It doesn't matter if we are yet to find the true etymology of a word or phrase; I'm more than pleased to see claptrap from other books disproved.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Iain S. Palin on 9 Oct. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Anyone interested in our language and where our words and usage come from should read Michael Quinion. He is entertaining and impressively thorough, and not only does he write books he has a fascinating website "World Wide Words" and even a free e-newsletter.
This book is a collection of some of the queries that have been sent in to him for that newsletter. For most of us it isn't something to sit and read through start-to-finish, rather something to dip into for a few minutes at a time - but those minutes will be well spent. You'll learn a lot, and enjoy yourself at the same time.
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