|About the Book|
Why is f used instead of s in old-fashioned writing and printing? What does corned mean in corned beef? How many words are there in the English language? Is the correct plural of octopus spelled octopuses or octopi? Since the OxfordMoreWhy is f used instead of s in old-fashioned writing and printing? What does corned mean in corned beef? How many words are there in the English language? Is the correct plural of octopus spelled octopuses or octopi? Since the Oxford Word and Language Service (OWLS, for short) was launched in 1983, it has been flooded with queries such as the above. The questions come from university professors, schoolchildren, word-game enthusiasts, translators, historians, and monks--from people who have come across obscure words in an old will or in an ancient recipe book, or who have had their curiosity piqued by one of the thousands of oddities attendant on our language.In Questions of English, Jeremy Marshall and Mrs. Fred McDonald have gathered some of the most curious and enlightening questions that OWLS has fielded, in a volume that will fascinate word lovers everywhere. The topics range from the mundane to the exotic, from common questions of punctuation or pronunciation (why, for instance, is the River Thames pronounced temz?), to queries about bizarre words and neologisms (such as nephelococcygeal, which means of or related to Cloud-Cuckoo-Land). Logophiles are in their element here, with fascinating discussions of obscure words as well as intriguing facts about the familiar. We learn, for instance, that the political term Tory was originally an insulting nickname (probably related to the Irish word for thief), as were the terms Whig, Quaker, and Methodist. The editors tell us that the word gopher comes from the French gaufre or honeycomb (because the gophers burrows honeycombed the ground) and that zimbabwe is an African word meaning walled grave, a name given to the numerous ruined medieval settlements found in the state of Zimbabwe. And we discover that the plural of octopus should perhaps be octopodes (octopi comes from the mistaken idea that octopus is a Latin word- its actually a Latinized form of the Greek oktopous, whose plural is oktopodes), but either octopi or octopuses are considered correct. In addition, the Owls puzzle over many spurious etymologies, such as for the words posh (which probably does not stand for Port Out Starboard Home), quiz, snob, or OK, and they provide a brief discussion of British and American English, which covers pronunciation (we say tomado, they say tomato), spelling, and vocabulary (in America, mean means nasty, while in Britain it means cheap).A joy for any lover of language, Questions of English brings the language to life with bright and often irreverent style. It is a browsers goldmine, packed with fascinating and useful facts about our native tongue.