Shaggy Dogs and Black Sheep: The Origins of Even More Phrases We Use Every Day Hardcover – 1 Sep 2005
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Second part of classic book on English idiom and their derivation. Funny and interesting.Published 8 months ago by Adrian