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4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
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There have been several books about British pub names including The Old Dog and Duck: The Secret Meanings of Pub Names, but this is the first I've read. The author explains in the introduction that some names are outside the scope of this book, noting that the Nine Giants merely refers to nine trees without any associated folklore. Nevertheless, the main book features the Seven Sisters, which refers to seven trees planted by seven sisters, but that story has apparently passed into legend locally, so it qualifies.

The author ridicules the widespread idea that the Elephant and Castle, is a corruption of Eleanor, Infant of Castile, and gives an alternative possible explanation about an Indian elephant with a load on its back that looks like a castle. I'll keep an open mind because both ideas seem plausible.

The book lists the names with their associated descriptions in alphabetical order, but at intervals through the book there are features about categories of pub names. There is no contents page at the front although there is an index at the back. Still, unless one is directed to these feature pages, it's easy to forget where they are, so here's a list.

Pages 16/7 - Angels and saints
Pages 46/7 - Mother geese and cats with fiddles
Pages 78/9 - Games and pastimes
Pages 112/3 - Puzzling pairs
Pages 138/9 - Puns and old jokes
Pages 182/3 - Harvesters and wheatsheaves
Pages 208/9 - Highwaymen and smugglers
Pages 248/9 - Queens' heads and red lions
Pages 278/9 - Ghostly barmaids and haunted cellars
Pages 310/1 - The year's merry round

I found this to be a very enjoyable book, though I was surprised to read that somebody tried reading it from beginning to end. It's not that type of book; it's something to dip in and out of. I would have given it 5 stars, but drop it to 4 because there isn't an easy way into those feature pages, which (unlike other pages) have borders round the text but no page numbers.
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on 24 January 2011
this book will answer the many questions we have about our pub heritage a real history book and a good read
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VINE VOICEon 3 June 2013
Great idea for a names (and their signs) are often survivals from earlier times and also connected to local stories and myths.

So, a collection of common and not so common British pub names and the inspirations behind them is a treasurehouse of folklore. The author, an expert in the field of folklore, is authorative but not dry. She is happy to include more modern examples of legendary figures, such as Hobbits or Flying Saucers and some of the names included are examples of broader, bawdier humour.

Some more illustrations, particularly colour photos of the more noteworthy pub-signs would be welcome and the entries of nursery rhyme names can be little more than a recital of the rhyme; Generally though, the entries are short and punchy and usually an interesting read.
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on 19 November 2013
A little disappointed with this...having got a couple of Simpsons books already I found this to be little more than a pasting exercise from those books. Many of the pub names chosen are those named after folklore and so what you get is another version of the same old story of George and the Dragon, Robin Hood, King Arthur etc. There are a few nuggets when she looks at one off names but there also seem to be some glaring omissions. Why no mention of the Chequers? one of the earliest pub signs I believe? I think there must be better books on the subject out there....but I only paid £1.99 for my copy so should I complain?
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on 15 September 2012
This book is brilliant and so interesting, I cannot put this book down, it is very informative, the book was very clean and tidy, it was exactly how it was described on, i would recommend this book and the seller to everyone, delivery was quick and packaging was very good.
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on 27 December 2013
This book explains so many mysterious pub names! It's great to dip into whenever I feel like it - would make a great bathroom book!
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on 10 August 2014
Fascinating insight into how your local pub got its name.
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on 3 April 2015
a book ive always wanted
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on 3 May 2013
This book was a good reference when I compiled a quiz on pub names and their meanings. Everybody had great fun doing the quiz
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on 3 February 2013
I had high expectations of this book: it's such a fascinating topic, and the previous reviews suggested that it would be an excellent light read on a characteristically English aspect of folk history.
Unfortunately I found it exceptionally dull, and gave up 60 pages in - coming from someone who ploughs to the end of virtually every book, however disappointing, this is almost unprecedented.
The biggest problem with the book is the unattractive writing style. Jacqueline Simpson writes dry academic prose, which is not helped by frequent dollops of 'know it all' condescention, particularly with regard to the rich folklore that has grown up around pub names. I accept that some of these linkages (for example, the link between 'Çat and Fiddle' to Catherine of Aragon via the term 'Catherina Fidelis') are probably farfetched, but does the author really need to be so snide about the misconceptions of her fellow mere mortals (as Ms Simpson sniffily comments, "Suggestions that ... there is some historical allusion ... are over-ingenious and should be disregarded")?
And given that much of the charm of the subject relates to the pub signs that illustrate the names, what was the logic behind the decision to go with lacklustre black and white line drawings that aren't even featured within the format of the signs?
If you're interested in this wonderful subject, then I would rather recommend 'All About Pub Signs' by Dorothy Nicolle, a lavishly illustrated and charmingly written romp through this delightful subject that imbues it with the sense of fun it deserves.
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