Phraseology: Thousands of Bizarre Origins, Unexpected Connections, and Fascinating Facts about English's Best Expressions

Phraseology: Thousands of Bizarre Origins, Unexpected Connections, and Fascinating Facts about English's Best Expressions

by Barbara Kipfer


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The Amazing Secrets of the Phrases We Use Everyday

Phraseology is the ultimate collection of everything you never knew about the wonderful phrases found in the English language. It contains information about phrase history and etymology; unusual, lost, or uncommon phrases; how phrases are formed; and more than 7,000 facts about common English phrases.

Practical enough to be used as a reference book but so fun that every book lover will want to read it straight through, Phraseology contains such engrossing tidbits as:

  • ACROSS THE BOARD is an allusion to the board displaying the odds in a horse race
  • ARTESIAN WELL gets its name from Artois, where such wells were first made
  • BEST MAN originated in Scotland, where the groom kidnapped his bride with the aid of friends, including the toughest and bravest - the best man.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781402212871
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 10/01/2008
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 582,261
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD is the author of many list and reference books. Barbara has an MPhil and PhD in Linguistics from University of Exeter, a PhD in Archaeology, an MA in Buddhist Studies from Greenwich University, and a BS in Physical Education from Valparaiso University. A lexicographer and part-time archaeologist, Barbara is the managing editor of Lexico LLC.

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Phraseology: Thousands of Bizarre Origins, Unexpected Connections, and Fascinating Facts about English's Best Expressions 2.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Twink More than 1 year ago
Oh, Phraseology is a trivia buff's dream. Or anyone who loves words and language. My son is of the first persuasion. He loves books like this and promptly snagged it.
Phraseology is one of those books you want to share. I had just as much fun listening to him quiz me on phrases as he did reading it. Some I knew, but some were complete surprises.

Here's a few to whet your appetite -

"To skin a cat" - comes from removing the tough skin from a catfish prior to cooking.

"Fit to be tied" - refers to being insane and bound, as in a straight jacket tied to the body.

This is a great book to leave on the coffee table - it can be picked up and read at whim.

I enjoyed the origin phrases, such as those listed above, the most. Some entries read more like dictionary entries that most people would already know, such as lie detector and celery seed. Some of the facts I found a bit uninspiring - "Asian elephants are smaller than African elephants". Based on the subtitle, I was looking for entries that were more 'bizarre', 'unexpected' and 'fascinating'. Still, this is a fun book to have around the house.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Most phrases are easily found in any regular dictionary. The promised explanations of weird phrases are very few. The content as advertised on the covet could be handled in a few pages. I don't think this book offers a true value.
nbmars on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A common question posed by rebellious library users is ¿What is so great about the Dewey Decimal System?¿ It may be a bit cumbersome to learn, but a simple arrangement of titles by size or alphabetically will not help the user find that with which he or she is unfamiliar. ¿Phraseology¿ suffers from this same problem. It describes itself as containing ¿thousands of bizarre origins, unexpected connections and fascinating facts about English¿s best expressions.¿ They are arranged alphabetically, however, and there is just no way to anticipate some of the inclusions. Would you ever think, for example, that a book of fascinating expressions would include ¿ocular dominance¿ or magnitude of a star¿?But let¿s set aside the expectation that this works as a reference book; it is the age of Google, after all, and such a compendium is not so essential anymore. Rather, I put it to the following test: does it make a good book for a car trip (or, if I were more indiscrete, I¿d say ¿a bathroom companion¿)? To this end, I tried it out in a competition of similar compendia: ¿Dictionary of Word Origins¿ by Jordan Almond, and ¿Dictionary of Eponyms¿ by Martin Manser. In every case except sheer number of inclusions, ¿Phraseology¿ came out the least desirable of the three.For example, in ¿Phraseology¿ we read that ¿Davy Jones is a term for the evil spirit of the sea. Davy Jones¿s locker is the bottom of the sea.¿ That¿s a good start, but I still don¿t know from whence the phrase comes. In ¿Dictionary of Word Origins¿ I learn the interesting information that ¿Jones¿ is merely a corruption of ¿Jonah,¿ after the Biblical prophet who was thrown into the sea. ¿Davy¿ is a corruption of the West Indian word for ¿ghost¿ or ¿spirit.¿ Now it all becomes clear.¿Phraseology¿ explains that the origin of the term ¿man Friday¿ is from the book ¿Robinson Crusoe¿ but that¿s the end of the entry! What does it mean and how did that come about? The ¿Dictionary of Eponyms¿ not only fills me in, but tells me about the derivation of ¿girl Friday¿ as well. ¿Phraseology¿ does include an entry for ¿girl Friday,¿ but it is separate, and if I had just looked up ¿man Friday,¿ I would not have learned they are related.Some entries are fatuous or unhelpful. The entry for ¿fairy tales¿ reads ¿¿fairy tales¿¿ are seldom about fairies.¿ The ¿Gregorian calendar¿ is identified as ¿the one now in general use.¿ ¿Eskimo pies date to 1921.¿ ¿The year 1920 had the first recorded use of `iron curtain.¿¿ ¿Force majeure¿ receives a literal translation, rather than the information that it is used synonymously with ¿Act of God¿ in American contract law. ¿Quahog¿ is listed under ¿hard-shell clam¿ but not under quahog!There are some entries that seem just right: Scoville scale, choropleth map, intaglio printing, but again, I wouldn¿t necessarily identify them as part of ¿English¿s best expressions.¿ But let¿s cut to the chase: Is it a book that would entertain on a car trip? Is it a book I¿d take to the bathroom? I would have to say that it¿s a book I would take along with a second book. I might take it for its sheer volume of inclusion, and its inspiration to find out more about phrases and expressions. I don¿t think it stands well alone. But it gives us a taste, a soupcon if you will, that sends us off to other reference books hungering for more.
wendyrey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I think I am far enough into this to review this sadly disappointing book. I was really looking forward to receiving this Early Reviewer book and was considering buying it if I didn't snag it but alas it did not live up to expectations. Not only as other reviewers have said is it more a sort of abridged dictionary with not enough etymology and no references, but so far and I have read about a quarter , a fair proportion of the definitions/explanations of British phrases and food related phrases (my area of expertise) are wrong or daft. For example Cheddar cheese is described as being named after the *town* of 'Cheddar Gorge' which is, well, a gorge, the town itself is just Cheddar and a quick Google will confirm this. And curiously the basic Yorkshire pudding is defined as being like the exotic Popover (whatever that is).Very, very American and, given that I have only read part and I have found lots of errors within my specialised area, worryingly inaccurate.An interesting concept that fails in execution and accuracy.
antisyzygy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I assume this work is meant to appeal to those who are exhilirated by language, the idiosyncracies of words and every nuance of phrases. It won't. You could take almost any example from this book ' The Gregorian calendar is the one now in general use.' That's the entry in it's entirety. The introduction promises 'really interesting things you probably do not know about thousands and thousands of phrases', and then singularly fails to deliver. Possibly the only thing in it's favour is the breadth of topics covered, although most could be described merely as definitions and without cross-referencing it is of very limited use. I wish I could have used it to find a better phrase than 'a disappointment'.
bragan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm very interested in language and in the origins and meanings of words and phrases, but I found this volume more annoying than entertaining or enlightening. Some entries feature definitions with no etymology, some etymology with no definitions, and others random trivia facts which may or may not actually be interesting (or, for that matter, reliable). The subject matter ranges from phrases whose meaning is so common and obvious that I wonder why the author bothered to terms so obscure and technical that, uh, I wonder why the author bothered. It may be diverting to spend a few minutes flipping through it, as some of the entries actually are informative, but the utterly haphazard nature of the thing makes it useless as a reference book and frustrating to spend any real amount of time with. Also, for some bizarre reason, either the author or the editor appears not to believe in capital letters or periods at the end of sentences. Which is not only faintly irritating, but also makes it kind of difficult to take the whole thing seriously. Learn to punctuate, guys, and then you can come and teach me about the English language.Instead of this book, I recommend Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Allusions if you're looking for an interesting and detailed book on the origins of common phrases, or Bill Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words for a readable and informative discussion of word usage with dos and don'ts.
kaelirenee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Vast amounts of words; lacking information, November 23, 2008 By Kaeli Vandertulip (Irving, TX USA) - See all my reviews Phraseology is a dictionary of phrases, defining evrything from dermagraphism (a hickey) to wild card. Often, the definition is assumed to be known (as in Waldorff salad), and so the basic origin of the word is given. More often, though, a brief definition is given without giving any information as to its etmology. Whereas books such as Ballyhoo, Buckaroo, and Spuds: Ingenious Tales of Words and Their Origins will give a very detailed history of a few words, this book gives a cursory explanation for thousands of words (more than 7000 according to the back of the book). There were a number of aggrivating features to this book. First, I can get more information about word origins and even meanings from the OED. Second, the order of the words seems random. Sometimes the word is listed right where it ought to be (Waldorff salad is in the Ws) and other times, you have to guess (Quahog is under Hard Shelled Clam); there is little authority control. Finally, it's just not interesting to dip into. Most etymology books are either entertaining and brief or are very detailed. This, unfortunatly, is neither. It seems the author bit off more than she could chew. Rather than finding an index card worth of information on the words, she barely found a post-it note.
jeanie1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was really looking forward to reading this book,. After page three I was not so sure. I get the impression that the author got tired of compiling information and decided that the information she had already collected was "good enough." Examples include "above the fold" - Kepfer forgot to include that the saying has historic roots in print media - that originally "above the fold" meant the lead story on the front page of the newspaper, above the fold the the paper. Another example is her information about "rolling pin - dates to 1589" Ok, well that is a start, but how did the name originate - why wasn't it called a rolling tube, or a bread roller? Her description of "Root Beer" - found in English by the 1840"s" Well, perhaps the name had something to do with a key ingredient - Sassafras - which was a tuber or root. Every page has phrases that are not fully explained. This book is not, as the title suggests "a definitive compendium" - it is more a pop culture overview.
deadmanjones on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Readers hoping for either an entertaining stocking filler or anentomological curio will be disappointed in both regards. This is little more than an abridged dictionary, and even as an abridged dictionary it isn't up to much. A prime example is even listed as an exciting entry on the front cover - "Arabic Numerals: Named because these numbers were introduced to Europe by the Arabs." Flick through and every page has a similar prosaic, basic and unentertaining definition; "Fairy tales: are seldom about fairies". Good grief.
varske on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was my first "Early Reviewer" book so I was looking forward to getting it. However like the others, I was disappointed. I started at the beginning, then I read XYZ, but the same impression. Here are some of the reasons I was disappointed, taken from F and W:Inconsistency: the length, type of information and quality of information varies tremendously with each item. Sometimes a date is given when the first use of the phrase is given, sometimes not. Inaccuracy: If you are going to bother to put the original phrase in its native language, you should at least spell it properly. Final Solution in German is not Endlsung, with a caret over the s, but Die Endlösung. If I can look it up in Wikipedia and get it right, why can't the author? And surely it was a phrase occuring before 1947.Pointless nitpicking: "fine-toothed comb" reflects the literal meaning better than fine-tooth comb. Does that really help anyone understand what the phrase means?No explanation at all: a finger buffet is a whole series of finger food. (No explanation for finger food is thought necessary).Similarly: the term four-letter word (1934) is said to have come from the use of a proliferation of such word during World War I. Does this really help to understand what the phrase means?And again: to wash one's hands of something comes from Matthew in the Bible. (All biblical references I spotted were "from Matthew in the Bible"). Is this the work of a scholar? Does this explain anything?Mistakes/ typos: A woodman once had three meals: first lunch at 5pm (sic); second lunch at 9pm (sic) and third lunch at 1pm. My favourite piece of rubbish:The Western world refers to all of the countries of the world other than those in Asia. Does this include Africa? Cuba? Russia? Everyone knows that the Western world includes Japan, don't they? Pointless information: white coffee is coffee with milk added. Do I really need to buy a book to learn this?Missed opportunity (and probably bad history): by 1640 witch hunt existed in the literal sense; the extended (sic) sense is attested from 1932 (where? describing what?). I never expected to read this book from cover to cover, but rather to dip into it for amusement and edification. But the result so far has been to make me doubt whether any of the entries with which I am not familiar, are accurate or worth believing.
dudara on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm confused as to the purpose of this book - it is supposed to provide etymology and origins of words, or act more as a casual dictionary?There are definitions of English mustard (mustard), english breakfast (a large fry) and English Breakfast tea (surprisingly, tea). To me these words are nouns, not phrases. I suppose I should have guessed that it might not be the best when I saw the defition of the phrase "pushing the envelope" that features on the cover. "A pilot's term for flying an aircraft at or beyond its reasonable limits". That's the definition alright, but what about the origin as promised at the top of the cover?I went straight to the definition of one of my favourite phrases - "mind your p's and q'". Kipper gives the definition as being an admonishment used by teachers monitoring students' handwriting. There's no mention of two other widely-accepted theories. Firstly, a warning to typesetters in the days of printing presses when the letter 'q' did not feature its characteristic tail, and hence could be mistaken for a 'p' in reverse. The second hails back to the days of drinking pints and quarts in public houses and recording of such on the slate. For me this was the acid test, and the book failed it.Ultimately, it's a novelty book, and you probably will learn something from it. But you'll probably be better off searching on the internet.
oszymandias on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was expecting this book to contain in-depth descriptions about the origins of phrases. The sort of thing you could bring up at the pub as an interesting fact. However each phrase has at best a short sentence describing where the phrase might have originated from - I think for most of the entries I have read I already knew more than the book told me. Overall it appears the author has aimed for breadth over depth which leaves the book much the poorer for it.
FionaCat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is not the type of book one reads cover to cover, so I am able to review it without actually having read every page. The joy of a book like this is in the browsing; opening to a random page, I then found myself skimming the next few pages until I flipped the book open to another place. This is not really a dictionary, and it would be hard to actually look something up in it, but that's not the point. This is a book for people who love words, and would be wonderful for a rainy day.
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