Norfolk writer’s new book sheds light on why we use certain words
- Credit: Courtesy of Peter Sargent
The words we use are ever changing. Derek James opens a new book by Norfolk author Peter Sargent who takes us on a fascinating safari through our colourful language
Before we take a look at this new book let’s just consider the words and expressions which, with any luck, be kicked into touch before too long.
Many have come from the mouths of politicians and vast number of “experts” who have emerged on our television screens in recent times.
There are those of us have been FURLOUGHED or working from home via ZOOM meetings and, if by any chance someone is listening in who shouldn’t be, they are ZOOMBOMBING.
When we venture outside during this PANDEMIC which is called COVID-19 or CORONOVIRUS we should abide by the TWO METRE RULE or we are COVIDIOTS.
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And we should be extra careful if we have UNDERLYING HEALTH CONDITIONS. Never mind the CIRCUIT BREAK or TIERED RESTRICTIONS.
Then there is the HERD IMMUNITY – I think the “experts” are talking about us, not cattle.
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- 6 Saver menus and pizzas - how pubs are opening under 'substantial meal' rule
- 7 Man hit by lorry on A47 rushed to hospital with serious injuries
- 8 'More substantial than a Scotch egg': Pub creates the 'Botched egg'
- 9 Vanishing village - Satellite images show incredible erosion at Winterton
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Oh, and OPERATION MOONSHOT and of course those BUBBLES. FIREWALLS and…
And so it goes on…as we attempt to get on with our lives while thinking of those doing challenging jobs.
Staff and patients in hospitals, emergency workers, those who are ill at home, stuck in “locked” care homes, or desperately trying to find a way of earning some money to survive the long worrying winter ahead.
Well, one way to cheer yourself up is to get a copy of Peter Sargent’s new book My Word! which takes a highly entertaining and fascinating look at the history of many of our wonderful words which are steeped in history and often lost in the mist of time.
As Peter, a former EDP journalist who has written a number of books, says we should learn to cherish our words, use them wisely, and above all – understand them.
“It can be a bit disconcerting sometimes when we use a word, and realise we don’t know where it comes from or exactly what it means.
“Oxymoron, surreal, curmudgeon and mnemonic – I’m talking about you,” writes Peter.
Even trusty familiar ones seem to change their meaning or have more than one sense, like slippery eels.
Words like good, fair, spell, wall and joint are like chameleons in that they have multiple uses which can trip you up.
Then there are the baffling ones.
Why it is that being a bully used to mean you were a good chap, and it was bully for you when we all know these days that bullies are a nasty lot.
This new book asks and answers a lot of question in such an entertaining and informative way.
Why do we love to eat a curry in a restaurant and then go to curry favour with our boss.
And why is it that poaching eggs is something we do at breakfast, while poaching is against the law?
Were Russian Cossacks the first to eat in a French bistro? I expect you have often considered that!
As for those Cavaliers and that King Charles II…well they were a nasty bunch committing all manner of outrage and violence.
Caprice. That’s a fine word and what other word in our wonderfully wacky language could combine hedgehogs, goats – and supermodels?
Peter went out pestering people to try and find out the origins of words, poured through books and dictionaries, even dipped a toe in the murky worlds of philosophy and politics.
The result is the entertaining and informative My Word!
“I’ve taken nearly 100 words in common usage, and traced their stories, how and when they entertained our language and how they’ve altered their meanings over the years,” he says.
So, if you’ve ever been puzzled by where words such as artisan, chutzpah, algebra, khaki, yankee, frank, influenza, trump (no offence), queue and my favourite hoity-toity come from….please read on.
My Word! Is published by Paul Dickson Books at £10. It is on sale at Jarrold in Norwich and Cromer, Waterstones in Norwich and at the highly-recommended café and book shop Revelation at St Michael at Plea, Redwell Street, Norwich, and on Allthingsnorfolk.com
Find out more about Peter Sargent and his work at www.petersargent.co.uk