What Made The Crocodile Cry?: 101 Questions about the English Language

What Made The Crocodile Cry?: 101 Questions about the English Language

by Susie Dent
     
 

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Why do good things cut the mustard? Who or what was the real Real McCoy? And why do we call false sentiment crocodile tears? Can crocodiles really cry?
In What Made the Crocodile Cry?, Susie Dent draws on her popular television segment on the curiosities of English to tackle these and many other fascinating puzzles. Writing with her customary charm and

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Overview

Why do good things cut the mustard? Who or what was the real Real McCoy? And why do we call false sentiment crocodile tears? Can crocodiles really cry?
In What Made the Crocodile Cry?, Susie Dent draws on her popular television segment on the curiosities of English to tackle these and many other fascinating puzzles. Writing with her customary charm and erudition, Dent offers a wonderfully readable and endlessly entertaining exploration of language, answering 101 of the most intriguing questions about the English language, from word origins and spelling to grammar and usage. Dent ranges far and wide in her search for the oddities of language, pondering the ancient origin of the word "tragedy" (which originally meant "goat song" in Greek) as well as the modern meaning of the word "donk" in the Blackout Crew's song title "Put a Donk in It." And throughout, the book brims with fascinating tales. Readers learn, for instance, that the word "bankrupt" comes from the Italian "banca rotta" or " broken bench" and the word "broke" (meaning "out of funds") has the same origin. Dent explains that in the sixteenth century, money lenders conducted their business on benches outdoors and the usual Italian word for "bench" was "banca" (hence today's "bank"). The author also provides an entertaining account of the origin of the term "white elephant" (meaning "a useless, burdensome possession") that dates back to ancient Siam, where rare white elephants were always given to the king. But since by law white elephants couldn't be worked (and earn money) or even be ridden, the king often re-gifted these worthless burdens to courtiers whom he didn't like.
Sparkling with insight and linguistic curiosity, this delightful compendium will be irresistible to anyone fascinated with language—the perfect gift for word lovers everywhere.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[A] fun book ... from the folks who continue to print the remarkable Oxford English Dictionary—about English eccentricities that we've turned into everyday language."—Philadelphia Inquirer

"[A] friendly but erudite guide to English as we know it. ... Dip into this little book to find answers to those tricky grammar questions."—Commuter Times

"Properly edited and proofread, thanks be, What Made the Crocodile Cry? is casually diverting for people who enjoy words."—The Freelancer

"[An] entertaining new book."—Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199574155
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
12/13/2009
Pages:
176
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Susie Dent is a writer and broadcaster, best known for being the regular face of Dictionary Corner on Channel 4 TV's Countdown. Her books include The Language Report (2003-2007) and Words of the Year (2008).

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