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The Accidental Dictionary: The Remarkable Twists and Turns of English Words (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

I am so excited for the release of this book! Any self-professed wordsmith or etymology nerd should be, too. Paul Anthony Jones looks at 100 words in the English language that have surprising or silly origins (think “tiddlywink”) and traces their journey from their intended use to the definitions we now know. These bite-sized lessons are sure to spice up your small talk and keep you endlessly entertained.

— Kelly


Brimming with hidden histories and tantalizing 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 piracyGrin meant to snarl. A bimbo was a mannice meant ignorantglamor was magic, and a cupboard was a tableBuxom used to mean obedient; a cloud was a rockraunchy originally meant dirty.

Focusing on one hundred 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.

About the Author

Paul Anthony Jones is a writer, etymologist, and language blogger. He is the author of several British books on trivia and language, including the widely acclaimed Word Drops: A Sprinkling of Linguistic Curiosities. He has contributed to the Guardian, the Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Mental Floss and BBC Radio 4's The World at One, and he also runs @HaggardHawks, the hugely popular language-based Twitter account and YouTube channel. A piano teacher and musician, he lives in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Praise For…

"These surprising word stories show how definitions of even everyday terms appear then disappear, expand and contract, and develop and distort, making for pleasurable reading, especially owing to the author’s lightheartedly learned style. Recommended for word buffs and those interested in language change."
— Library Journal

"In the vein of his Word Drops, Jones shares his passion for understanding how common English words have morphed to illustrate social trends. Entertaining and informative, the book offers equal helpings of social and linguistic history and interpretation."
— Booklist

Product Details
ISBN: 9781681775692
ISBN-10: 1681775697
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publication Date: October 3rd, 2017
Pages: 224
Language: English
ABA Admin Product Details
Data Source: ONIX
Created At: 3/4/2017 07:55pm
Last Updated At: 3/18/2023 11:40am