English as we know it today is enriched with many borrowings and influences from other languages. Aficionado, chutzpah, pro bono, hoi polloi, ketchup, nous, zeitgeist - we use these foreign words every day without thinking of their origins, but what do they actually mean? And just how and why did we English speakers absorb such exotic imports? Each phrase has a fascinating history; colonialism, foreign trade, invasion and immigration all have their role to play in the evolution of our language. Did you know, for example, that 'lingua franca' is Italian for 'Frankish language' - a name given to a mixed common language used by diplomats of different nationalities in medieval times? Or that the seemingly modern 'bandana' comes from the Sanskrit for the ancient Indian technique of tie-dying fabric? A Certain 'Je Ne Sais Quoi' is an accessible and entertaining treasury of information that 'connoisseurs' (French) of the English language will love!
Many of the popular, often prophetic, phrases that we use on a day-to-day basis have their roots in traditional folklore. For example: 'One swallow doesn't make a summer'; 'March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb'; 'One for sorrow, two for joy'. Such common idioms are familiar to most people, but their history and origins are far from well known. However, in One for Sorrow readers will discover that there is a wealth of fascinating stories and history behind them. This charming book is filled with sayings, legends and proverbs derived from the oral history of the countryside and unveils how they came about, what they mean, and how they came to be such a big part of the language we use today. Written with a light touch and expert knowledge, it will entertain and inform in equal measure - perfect for anyone with an interest in the rich and varied heritage of the English language.
An amusing and scholarly look at the fascinating stories behind old-fashioned legends and superstition This collection investigates the origins of history's most intriguing old-fashioned superstitions, many of which people still find themselves abiding by today. Hundreds of the beliefs passed down through the generations have their foundations in ancestry's efforts to ward off evil, which they blamed for hardship, illness, and injustice in times when life was, as often as not, "nasty, brutish, and short." Black Cats and Evil Eyes sets these superstitions in their historical and social context, explaining how fear of the devil, demons, evil spirits, and witchcraft drove people to arm themselves with rituals and talismans to repel dark forces and allow them to live long and healthy lives. In examining many of our common superstitions, this book illuminates the customs, beliefs, and practices of an ancient, and often darker, human past.
A beautifully packaged, highly enjoyable collection that showcases the most unusual and interesting collective nouns in the English language—from the author of A Certain "Je Ne Sois Quoi" Why are geese in a gaggle? Are crows really murderous? And what makes lions so proud? Collective nouns are one of the most charming oddities of the English language, often with seemingly bizarre connections to the groups they identify. But have you ever stopped to wonder where these peculiar terms actually came from? Age-old phrases like Pitying of Turtle Doves to a Murder of Crows to modern collective nouns like an Elocution of Lawyers. This absorbing book tells the stories of these evocative phrases, many of which have stood the test of time and are still in use today. Entertaining, informative, and fascinating, An Unkindness of Ravens is perfect for any history or language buff.