The Penguin Book of Cliches (Penguin Reference Books) Paperback – 17 Apr 2000
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It's hard to realise just how much of our language, both spoken and written, is taken up by clichés--until confronted with a book like this. It's only natural that this form of verbal shorthand is so ubiquitous; after all, people have been thinking and writing much the same thing since the Mesopotamians first put stylus to wet clay. Unless your name happens to be St. Paul, Shakespeare or Milton, whatever the emotion or concept you're seeking to convey to the listener or reader, the chances are that someone's already put it better than you can.
Clichés are so prevalent, in fact, that a comprehensive listing is probably impossible, but in The Penguin Dictionary of Clichés, Julia Cresswell gives it her best shot (pardon the, er, cliché). The 320-page dictionary is an alphabetical listing of more than 1,500 clichés in both British and American English, across a chronological range from 800 or so AD ("hither and yon") to the turn of the 21st century ("bad hair day"). Each cliché is accompanied by a note on meaning and origin, including citations of appearance in print.
Just as the joy of perusing the Oxford English Dictionary (a resource Creswell pays tribute to in her introduction) is in the citations, the fun of The Penguin Dictionary of Clichés comes from checking out when and how familiar clichés infiltrated English. How many of us know, for example, that "kicking against the pricks" dates back to the Authorised or "King James" version of the Bible (Acts 9:5), or that the phrase "lie back and think of England" actually appears in the diary of an Edwardian lady?
Compact, comprehensive, well-researched and written, The Penguin Dictionary of Clichés will be enjoyed by anyone interested in the evolution of the informal words and phrases that give the English language much of its colour and vigour. --C A Wills
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Top Customer Reviews
Great for song titles.Alphabetical cross reference with examples in context.There are only 1500 cliches so dont expect to find everything
How to read such a book to get a flavour of the style and content? Try a 'hypertext' route. Start at a random entry; continue reading until you come to a cross reference; jump to that reference. Serendipity rules! O.k. it's hard to avoid the cliché habit.
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