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VINE VOICEon 23 January 2011
My sister gave me this pretty little book for Christmas, which was great because it's not the type of book I would usually think about buying for myself. The title might leave you wondering exactly what this book is about, but the subtitle helps to explain: Popular Expressions - What They Mean and Where We Got Them.

The book looks at some of the well-known phrases and proverbs which appear in the English language and explains what they mean and how they originated. Do you know what 'to shoot the moon' means, for example, or why we give someone 'the third degree'? Why do we 'steal someone else's thunder' and why do we 'go to the Land of Nod' when we fall asleep?

The phrases appear in alphabetical order. I was a bit disappointed by some of the entries which are little more than a straight definition of the phrase or proverb, but the majority were interesting and I learned a lot of fascinating little facts. Some of them such as 'ballpark figure' and 'take a rain check' have American origins. Others stem from Ancient Greece or Rome. There are others that come from the Bible, some that are derived from Aesop's fables and some that were made famous by Shakespeare. A few of the phrases have no definite origins and in these cases the author tells us that the definitions she's providing are merely speculation.

This is not really a book you would read from cover to cover in one sitting; it's perfect for dipping in and out, reading a few entries at a time. It's strangely addictive though as the entries are temptingly short (usually no more than two or three paragraphs). I'd recommend it to anyone with a love for the English language. It's a perfect book to buy as a gift too, as it even has a special page at the front where you can write your 'to' and 'from'!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 December 2009
On the inside cover is printed `A gift for ... from...', suggesting that this attractively produced book, humorously illustrated by Louise Morgan, is intended to be a stocking-filler, so perhaps we shouldn't be too critical of it. The subtitle is `Popular Expressions - What They Mean and Where We Got Them'. `What They Mean' is almost always pretty obvious - otherwise they would hardly be popular. A fairly high proportion of the explanations of `Where We Got Them' will surely not be needed for someone who has a reasonable acquaintance with the Bible (to cast pearls before swine), Aesop's fables (sour grapes), Greek legends (the sword of Damocles), sailing (walking the plank). However, there are certainly some entries (cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey) whose intriguing origin few people would know. As this is the third edition of a book whose earlier ones were under different titles, it has obviously been a good seller. And it is a good deal handier and more up-to-date than Brewer's massive `Dictionary of Phrase and Fable'.
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on 4 January 2010
I have been looking for a book like this for years.
Everytime I have heard an expression I have wondered why and where it came from. Now I know and I keep this book at my fingertips now so if anyone asks me where it came from I can refer to the book. For example I always wondered what "swinging the lead" was and what did it mean and where did it come from.
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on 3 August 2013
I am very interested in where the sayings we have originate from and this book looked one for me! It really is an interesting book and can be picked up at any time. I also loved the cover which felt like cloth, very unexpected but I like it very much. Good quality and price.
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A book that sets out to explain the origin of sayings. What they mean and why we say them.

For example, something being 'under the counter' stems from the second world war when tradesmen would keep extra supples of goods that were not on the ration, that they could sell to customers for inflated prices.

And that's just one of the many sayings that this book looks and gives explanations for.

It runs for one hundred and ninety two pages, which includes a forward from the writer.

Not all of the sayings have definitive explanations for their origins. Some the writer can only speculate about. But all are given details as to what they actually mean.

Some of them come with box outs containing extra bits of information. And there are simple but effective illustrations to go with a handful of others.

Not a book to read in one go otherwise it would get very repetitive quickly. As a book to be dipped into and out of occasionally, it's a fine and fascinating read and a handy reference work also.
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on 15 April 2010
I have to agree with an earlier reviewer's description to it being a bit of a mixed bag. Interesting in parts and some of the conclusions I still have some doubts about. Not a bad book by any description or measure. I suppose you get exactly what it says and in that its a little bit of a let down as there is no hidden surprise.
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on 3 June 2013
interesting, unusual facts, extra bit of knowledge, good for pub quizzes and crosswords, Would recommend to anyone who is interested in facts and figures
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on 23 September 2013
Brilliant and funny, explaining the meaning and provenance of some expressions of everyday use in a simple, affordable way. Very enjoyable
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on 2 December 2013
an insight into common expressions explained very well.A must for all lovers of english or for english teachers working broad
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on 30 September 2013
I always wondered where different sayings come from. Now all I have to do is look in this book, to find out,good
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