Why Is This a Question?: Everything About the Origins and Oddities of Language You Never Thought to Ask
‘As entertaining as it is engrossing’ John Banville
‘Enlightening, delightful’ Arthur der Weduwen, author of The Library
Why don’t eleven and twelve end in –teen? The rest of our counting system sits in neatly arithmetical sets of ten, so why do these two rulebreakers seem so at odds with the numbers that follow them?
Admittedly, that’s probably a question that might never have occurred to you. But if you’re even remotely interested in the origins and oddities of language, it’s likely also a question you’re now intrigued to know the answer to. Nor is it the only question: take a moment to think about how our language operates and even more spring mind. Why do these letters look the way they do? Why are some uppercase and others lowercase? Why are these words in this order? How are you understanding what these seemingly arbitrary shapes and symbols mean, while doubtless hearing them read to you in a voice inside your head? And what is this question mark really doing at this end of this sentence?
Books explaining the origins of our most intriguing words and phrases have long proved popular, but they often overlook the true nuts and bolts of language: the origins of our alphabet and writing system; grammatical rules and conventions; the sound structure of language; and even how our brains and bodies interpret and communicate language itself. Why Is This a Question? is a fascinating and enlightening exploration of linguistic questions you’ve likely never thought to ask.
‘Every page will make you stop, think and wonder’ James Hawes, author of The Shortest History of England
‘Enthralling, with a riveting “who knew?” moment on nearly every page’ Caroline Taggart, author of Humble Pie and Cold Turkey