The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities: A Yearbook of Forgotten Words by Paul Anthony Jones

Review published on November 8, 2017.

The English language has a huge number of words; there are over 170,00 words in current use and over 45,000 words that are now considered obsolete. The average person in the street has a vocabulary of around 20,000–35,000 words, meaning that for almost everyone there is a whole world of undiscovered words and their meanings to discover. One man who is aiming to unlock this Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities for us all is Paul Anthony Jones. He is the man behind Haggard Hawks, another wonderful place for everything wordy and some fiendishly difficult anagrams, and boy has he found some corkers in this book.

Some words here will make you smile, some will make you wince, but this is a cabinet full of precious treasure, an etymological gold mine. It is a labyrinth as one word leads to another and yet another word loops back past. We will learn the origins and root of words like viaticated, something that you will need to be for this journey, when you’ll need a paragrandine, just what the noise is that the word mrkgnao describes. Whilst all of this may seem mysterifical, you will start to become someone who could be called a sebastianist as you uncover this etmological Wunderkammer. You will learn how long a smoot is, when you need to scurryfunge a house, and just what a yule-hole is, and at the end of all that you’ll either be a word-grubber or be in need of a potmeal

Not only is this a book for those that love all things about the English language, Paul Anthony Jones has written a book for the general reader too. Each day of the year has been given a unique word, which is either relevant for that day, or is picking up on the threads earlier in the year. There is a little history behind the word and often more in the text as I can imagine that this could have been twice the size. The first word I looked up was my birthday, as I guess that most people will do, followed by family members and other significant dates. Thankfully it is very readable and can be dipped into as and when you want to. It is great follow up to The Accidental Dictionary and I will be reading his other book, Word Drops, when I can squeeze it in.

Paul Cheney 4/4

The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities: A Yearbook of Forgotten Words by Paul Anthony Jones
Elliott & Thompson 9781783963584 hbk Oct 2017

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