New B-format paperback edition. The story of over three thousand words that today are forgotten, unfamiliar and increasingly rare. A funny and fascinating window on the rich history of the English language.
If you think that the English language stays still, carved in tablets of stone, think again. English is constantly on the move, enhancing its scope by gratefully accepting words from other languages. It tolerates changes to meanings, often with hilarious consequences, and it allows words to slip away into oblivion when we seem to have no further use for them. In three parts, this book looks at each of these comings and goings, starting with the welcome immigrants that we assume to be English words but which actually originated from all over the world. Part two takes a stroll through Dr. Johnson&;s famous dictionary and looks at words and meanings that time forgot. Finally, part three is where we hope to forestall a similar fate for words that are well known but seem to be less used than they deserve to be. Words change: they immigrate and emigrate. They reflect changing fashions and roam across centuries. This book delves into their origins: Where do words come from? How do their meanings change? Why do we stop using them? This book explores over 3000 words, explaining how they have arrived from more than 100 different languages. It traces their changing meanings since Samuel Johnson first compiled his dictionary, and finally identifies many words that are endangered through lack of use. As we rush headlong into a world of social media acronyms and smiley faces, now is the time to rescue and enjoy gems that have slipped away and to remember that, if words are not used, they will go the way of the Dodo.
'A fascinating book' -- Andrew Motion 'A book with a charm of its own' -- Sunday Telegraph 'Wonderful words with even more wonderful definitions' -- The Oldie 'A book I would like in my Christmas stocking' -- Alexander McCall Smith