Kick the Bucket and Swing the Cat: The complete Balderdash & Piffle collection of English Words, and Their Curious Origins Paperback – 6 Nov 2008
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English words and phrases, and their curious originsSee all Product Description
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The second, when the origin is pretty obvious, is to try to track down the first time a word or phrase appeared in written form. This of course doesn’t mean that the word may not have been used in speech long before that: over and over again I was surprised, seeming to have known a word from my youth (I will be ninety this year), how more recent the first appearance in print of some expressions is. Tracking down the first written appearance is of interest to the compilers of some dictionaries, but, I would have thought, is not particularly interesting to many readers. But there I am obviously wrong. The book is based on two television series in 2006 and 2007 called “Balderdash and Piffle”, in which viewers were asked whether they could find earlier examples than those so far given in the big Oxford English Dictionary to certain words. Some 6,000 emails were sent in! As a result the editors of the OED revised 79 of its entries, and the epilogue of this book is about these.
The text is sometimes jocose and itself playing on words.
The first chapter of Part One shows how the English language adapted (and often later altered) words from the various peoples (Angles, Vikings, Normans) who invaded Britain; then it goes on to show the contribution made by Chaucer.
The second and third chapter go into details about the compilation of dictionaries, from Dr Johnson’s to the online Oxford English dictionary. The fourth chapter tells us what modern English owes to the Bible and to Shakespeare.Read more ›