Why Do We Say? The Stories Behind the Words, Expressions and Cliches We Use Info

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How did lollypops get their name? What's long about a
longshoreman? Why do we pass the buck? The answers are in this
fascinating volume. The intriguing origins of hundreds of unusual words
and expressions are here, organized in a handy alphabetical format.
Useful for reference and fun just for browsing, this book is also a
great way to expand your vocabulary and enjoy doing it. The hardcover
edition makes a wonderful gift for readers and writers, scholars and
students. Uncover the mysteries of the modern English language and share
the facts and trivia with your family and friends.


Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for Why Do We Say? The Stories Behind the Words, Expressions and Cliches We Use:

3

Mar 01, 2017

Any trivia fan knows that a book like this cannot but add something to our knowledge, but this one, based on familiar idioms and cliches, is a little too old and perhaps a little too British to be a top bar-bet contender. Useful for completionists and bargain-hunters.
1

Jul 25, 2014

Out of date phrases and terms were the first disappointment with this book. The next was the, often, weak reason (answering "why"). Additionally, some of the "reasons" were simply - wrong. Furthermore, it seems to be rather British based.

4

Mar 03, 2018

This is a great book for a) settling arguments, b) helping you be the smart guy at any social gathering as someone utters an old saying and you high-jack the conversation by asking "do you know where that saying came from?", or c) a lot of fun, a little amazement, and a bit of education. It's essentially a combination dictionary and encyclopedia of familiar sayings, arranged in alphabetical order, accompanied by the likely origin(s) of the saying. Even thought it's concise, it's not a book to This is a great book for a) settling arguments, b) helping you be the smart guy at any social gathering as someone utters an old saying and you high-jack the conversation by asking "do you know where that saying came from?", or c) a lot of fun, a little amazement, and a bit of education. It's essentially a combination dictionary and encyclopedia of familiar sayings, arranged in alphabetical order, accompanied by the likely origin(s) of the saying. Even thought it's concise, it's not a book to read at one sitting because there are so many entries and they become difficult to remember, just read one after another. On the other hand, it's an excellent reference, much like Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, and is a worthy candidate for a long life on your bookshelf. ...more
4

Sep 14, 2018

A little light reading from a thrift store find. It does seem that there are quite a few that I am not familiar with; many from the British Isles. I have always had a curiosity about the origins of words and popular phrases, so it was a fun read, but not, I think, in-depth.
3

Dec 26, 2013

As the subtitle on the cover suggest, this book is about words and phrases used in English, and where they came from. Its primarily in alphabetical order, except for some quizzes with answers at the back. While many of the entries are amusing or interesting, a few are just we borrowed it from French, but pronounced or spelled a little differently. Some of the word derivations are also a bit suspect,

This edition is put out by Castle Books, and was published in 1985. Theres no author listed, no As the subtitle on the cover suggest, this book is about words and phrases used in English, and where they came from. It’s primarily in alphabetical order, except for some quizzes with answers at the back. While many of the entries are amusing or interesting, a few are just “we borrowed it from French, but pronounced or spelled a little differently.” Some of the word derivations are also a bit suspect,

This edition is put out by Castle Books, and was published in 1985. There’s no author listed, no sources cited, no index; your college professor is not going to accept this as a source for your research paper. From the typography, the writing style, the date of phrases not included, and some dated cultural assumptions, I believe this book is a reprint of one from the mid-1940s (Some of the catchier phrases haven’t been in common use since the 1920s!)

Overall, a fun book, but the serious student of etymology will need a better-cited volume; for entertainment purposes only.

While we’re at it, here’s five questions from the book. Can you answer them all?

Why is some cloth called “broadcloth”?
How did an unruly lock of hair come to be called a “cowlick”?
What is the origin of the expression “fair-weather friends”?
Why is a lively person said to be full of “ginger”?
Why do we call a celebrity a “bigwig”? ...more
5

Jun 29, 2010

I always wondered where some of the saying we use came from. Very interesting but will have to read again later on. There is no way to remember all of them.
4

Jul 28, 2017

A fun and informative little book. My only real complaint is that the author, in his effort to keep the explanations concise, often leaves out important context that is necessary to a true understanding of the word/phrase in question. For example, his explanation of the phrase "Jump Over the Broomstick", while technically correct, omits any mention of the history of the phrase here in the United States; slaves often jumped over a broom as part of their marriage ceremony because they were not A fun and informative little book. My only real complaint is that the author, in his effort to keep the explanations concise, often leaves out important context that is necessary to a true understanding of the word/phrase in question. For example, his explanation of the phrase "Jump Over the Broomstick", while technically correct, omits any mention of the history of the phrase here in the United States; slaves often jumped over a broom as part of their marriage ceremony because they were not allowed to have a legal ceremony. To omit this information makes a full understanding of the phrase impossible because you lose a big part of the context.

Aside from such omissions, however, I found this book enjoyable, and I would gladly recommend it to anyone with an interest in etymology. ...more
1

Jan 04, 2010

A student actually gave me this book about four years ago, and I unearthed it again recently.

SO it turns out this book inspired a new shelf (which I never thought I would have a need for): I Can't. Normally, when I start a book, I finish it. It may be take hours or years or the better part of a decade, but I'll finish it. I think I do this mostly out of sheer stubbornness, partly out of a little masochistic pleasure (may I remind you I have a Hurts So Good shelf?), and partly out of my training A student actually gave me this book about four years ago, and I unearthed it again recently.

SO it turns out this book inspired a new shelf (which I never thought I would have a need for): I Can't. Normally, when I start a book, I finish it. It may be take hours or years or the better part of a decade, but I'll finish it. I think I do this mostly out of sheer stubbornness, partly out of a little masochistic pleasure (may I remind you I have a Hurts So Good shelf?), and partly out of my training as an English scholar. If I'm going to intelligently comment on a book, I have to read it first. ALL of it. I refuse to make any arguments without having all the evidence - in favor and against.

I simply can't enjoy this book without knowing which of these explanations are legit and which are urban fiction, I have no bibliography to check - for all I know, this guy could be making it all up. I started with such enthusiasm because this is my favorite kind of stuff (I <3 Etymology), but I don't want to take up valuable brain space with falsehoods.

What I can do at a later date is find other publications with actual bibliographies to verify these. In the meantime, into Purgatory it goes. ...more
3

Jul 08, 2011

An interesting book that gives the origin of many expressions we use every day. Be advised, however, that other sources give conflicting stories about these same expressions. This book seems to imply that it can be used as a reference book, but that is hardly the case. For example, it gives an imaginative analogy for the term bull pen, but other sources list several other possibilities that dont include the one in this book. Read Why Do We Say It? as entertainment, not as gospel truth. An interesting book that gives the origin of many expressions we use every day. Be advised, however, that other sources give conflicting stories about these same expressions. This book seems to imply that it can be used as a reference book, but that is hardly the case. For example, it gives an imaginative analogy for the term bull pen, but other sources list several other possibilities that don’t include the one in this book. Read Why Do We Say It? as entertainment, not as gospel truth. ...more
2

Mar 23, 2015

This was almost like reading the dictionary. To be fair, there were a few "aha" moments. I was surprised by how many words and phrases are derived from sailing and the theater. Perhaps it would have been better to organize the chapters by common origin: Greek, Latin, theater, sailing, business, etc. And what's with the lack of an author or editor? The publisher could have at least listed contributors or compilers who worked on the project and assigned a chief editor.
2

Mar 26, 2013

If I were British, I would be more familiar with the slang and phrases in the book and enjoy it more. Often there were no definitions for the modern phrase and became irrelevant to me. Plus often the words that were chosen derived from Latin, Greek and French and gave nothing else that was interesting. If you are very interested in language, you may like this book.
3

Jun 22, 2012

Fun, especially for trivia mavens. It does lose some points, however, for failing to include an explanation for the source of one of my favorite colloquialisms, 'Hands down.' Why do we use that term, what is its origin?
3

Dec 30, 2013

As interesting as many of the saying that were revealed in the book, I felt that many of them I haven't heard of. Also there were a few it seemed the answers were too simplistic but it was still a worth read for a number of saying were interesting.
4

Aug 09, 2016

This book was an interesting read, full of information and trivia rather than stories. It's awfully dense, so don't think this is a quick read. I read about two pages a day for months, or else I never would've finished it. It was a nice daily dose of blunt/sometimes funny explanations.
3

Feb 25, 2016

Words and expressions are always fascinating to me. I like to read about the origins of colorful sayings. Many of the expressions in this book are not familiar to me, however.
4

Jun 22, 2015

Very interesting book, not what you would call exciting, but fascinating just the same
3

Mar 02, 2014

A very interesting book for readers interested in language. Some sayings are more explained than others but, overall, the book was quite enjoyable.
3

May 28, 2015

A friend loaned this to me. If you are interested in etymology this might be good for you.
3

Mar 26, 2013

Entertaining to read in bits and pieces now and then. Some of the words or phrases I wished had a little more information, but overall it was well-written and well-presented.
3

Oct 10, 2009

This is a fun little book. I like to know why people say things like "Red Herring" etc.

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