The Accidental Dictionary: The Remarkable Twists and Turns of English Words
By: Paul Anthony Jones
How well do you know your words?
Buxom used to mean obedient
A cloud was a rock
Raunchy originally meant dirty
Brimming with hidden histories and tantalising twists, The Accidental Dictionary tells the extraordinary stories behind ordinary words.
Our everyday language is full of surprises; its origins are stranger than you might think. Any word might be knocked and buffeted, subjected to twists and turns, expansions and contractions, happy and unhappy accidents. There are intriguing tales behind even the most familiar terms, and they can say as much about the present as they do the past.
Busking, for instance, originally meant piracy. Grin meant to snarl. A bimbo was a man, nice meant ignorant, glamour was magic and a cupboard was a table . . .
Focusing on 100 surprising threads in the evolution of English, The Accidental Dictionary reveals the etymological origins and quirky developments that have led to the meanings we take for granted today. It is a weird and wonderful journey into words.
So, let’s revel in its randomness and delight in its diversity – our dictionary is indeed accidental.
Paul Anthony Jones’s The Accidental Dictionary is certainly worth adding [to a bookshelf]. It’s all about the changes in meaning that many words have experienced over the years. … I knew very few of these, which is a good thing, and now I know more, which is a better one
- Marcus Berkmann, Spectator Christmas books 2016
Check out @HaggardHawks’ new book for more lovely facts on how words changed their meanings over time
- Greg Jenner, author of A Million Years in a Day