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69 Reviews
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good fun
Albert Jack's books have been unfavourably compared with Michael Quinion's 'Port Out, Starboard Home'. I have books by both authors. Jack's are well thumbed "bog books" - perfect for passing the time in the lav. Quinion's lies largely unread in a cupboard.

Quinion's is almost certainly the more accurate and learned. But it's so dull. His approach tends to be to...
Published on 15 Feb 2008 by Maltravers

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121 of 135 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A poor entry in the market
I had a flick through this the other day and in those few seconds I spotted two entries which simply repeated folk etymologies have been discredited in other texts. This is the linguistic equivalent of publishing a book full of urban legends as true tales!
By the author's own admission this book was put together simply to cash in on the Christmas/casual purchase...
Published on 15 Dec 2004 by Louise Dore


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good fun, 15 Feb 2008
Albert Jack's books have been unfavourably compared with Michael Quinion's 'Port Out, Starboard Home'. I have books by both authors. Jack's are well thumbed "bog books" - perfect for passing the time in the lav. Quinion's lies largely unread in a cupboard.

Quinion's is almost certainly the more accurate and learned. But it's so dull. His approach tends to be to dismiss the wonderful folk tales around words and phrases in a very superior way before confessing he doesn't really have a better explanation.

Jack doesn't let the facts get in the way of a good tale and he presents a much more entertaining read.

The choice is simple - if you want a few funny tall tales to entertain a group of mates in the pub, buy Jack. If you want to be the lonely pedant in the corner muttering "well that's not strictly accurate" get a copy of Quinion.
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121 of 135 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A poor entry in the market, 15 Dec 2004
By 
Louise Dore - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I had a flick through this the other day and in those few seconds I spotted two entries which simply repeated folk etymologies have been discredited in other texts. This is the linguistic equivalent of publishing a book full of urban legends as true tales!
By the author's own admission this book was put together simply to cash in on the Christmas/casual purchase market, and it shows in its sloppy research. If you, or your gift-recipient, are genuinely interested in the history of words and phrases, I would suggest Michael Quinion's far superior 'Port Out, Starboard Home'. It may not be piled high by the tills in your local bookshop, but you'll be well rewarded for seeking it out.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting accounts of the sources of everyday expressions, 31 Mar 2009
This review is from: Red Herrings and White Elephants (Paperback)
This is an easy book to dip in and out of. It explains the sources of many common expressions. Some of the explanations are based on folk stories or myths; some are based on fact. I note that other reviewers challenge the accuracy of the book. As a casual reader I find it fine and am intrigued to learn for instance that 'Bob's your Uncle' comes from the promotion in 1886 of someone whose uncle was the Prime Minister, Robert Gascoyne-Cecil. It is packed with such trivia.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quriky, 28 Dec 2005
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I bought one of these books as a present for my brother,however I thumbed it so much before wrapping it that I didn't give it to him in the end. I only meant to have a quick peep but ended up taking it to read in bed over the next few weeks as I found it so very interesting.
As the title suggests it has the origins of all those well known sayings and you will find yourself saying out loud "oh wow, that's where that comes from". If you like things that are a little different you will really enjoy this book.
We keep it in the lounge and the amount of guests that pick it up and can't put it down is quite funny.
An absolute must have!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and great fun - very hard to put down, 6 Dec 2006
I could not disagree more with the reviewer below. I also bought this book as a present and have read it (carefully!) myself all the way through, and got 2 more copies for others. The author must have spent ages and ages on research! This is a book aimed at a general audience - it isn't written for experts; but I have a strong interest in history and I find it eminently readable. No doubt there are a few areas in which his assertions are a bit over-confident but since this isn't a treatise, more light-hearted entertainment, I think it is silly to quibble. Have a look at the excerpt for yourself and make up your mind - if you like what you see, you won't regret buying it as it's the same sort of thing all the way through.
Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bought as a gift, 2 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Red Herrings and White Elephants (Paperback)
Bought for my dad to read on holiday, he loves history and he found this book really interesting and perfect to read on holiday.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great fun, 1 Sep 2010
By 
Elfie (Derbyshire) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Red Herrings and White Elephants (Paperback)
This is a great coffee-table book! You wouldn't really read it as such, but we find ourselves dipping in and out of it when we hear a saying that we want to find out more about. Who knows if it's completely accurate - can anyone really be sure? But it's good fun, provides a good source of entertainment and isn't too expensive. I like it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor, 22 Mar 2008
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I cannot believe this was commited to print. Rolls out the usual and false definition of 'brass monkey'. 5 minutes spent on the web would have told the author that his research was wrong.

Couldn't be bothered with the rest of the book after that sloppy error.

Try Snopes instead
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating!, 15 Sep 2005
I'd wanted this book for ages, as with a family that now live all over the country, I needed to translate their little sayings! My cockney partner also learnt a lot, and I'd recommend the book to anyone and everyone! It's a fascinating and interesting piece of work!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Amusing.... ly poor., 14 April 2007
By 
J. B. Chapman (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
The dust jacket claims that the author of Red Herrings and White Elephants has "a passion for solving the mysteries of the English language". Well, a linguistic Morse he is not. While some definitions and etymologies are approaching accurate, there are so many errors that any claim for authority is laughable. Some of the real howlers include the hugely convoluted, inaccurate and illogical exposition of "flog a dead horse", along with a seriously odd reading of "raining cats and dogs", which includes the assertion that the phrase "raining dogs and polecats" is an explicit allusion to nautical terminology without any supporting evidence. The generally slapdash approach reaches its zenith with the invokation of Hindu sacred pigs in "bite the bullet", and the book therafter tails off into banality and whimsy. If the writing were lively and engaging then I might recommend it, but that isn't the case. Don't waste your money.
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Red Herrings and White Elephants
Red Herrings and White Elephants by Albert Jack (Paperback - 3 Sep 2007)
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