Around the World in 80 Words A Journey Through the English Language

Review :

Paul Anthony Jones is a master craftsman in my opinion. When it comes to non-fiction and trivia, he's an absolute joy to read. Witty, to the point and accurate (yes, I did spend time googling some of the facts he presented to check) I have repeatedly bored my family and any other poor sod who happened to be around at the time with endless recounting of how we came by words such as cayenne pepper, bikini, bedlam, dollar, copper and...buggery (yes, really)...among many others.

Jones has the rare ability of the likes of Bill Bryson and Mark Forsyth to be funny without being smarmy. Each chapter is very short and easy to read yet packed with both good humour and fascinating information that you find yourself needing to read again to try and remember it all (for the aforementioned repeating ad nauseam to others). If you're like me you continuously think, as you're reading, 'I've GOT to tell people this one' - and you will.

Furthermore, though in theory you learn about just 80 words or expressions, in reality, Jones adds in many extra words too (under the guise of saying he's NOT going to talk about them) and his footnotes are every bit as interesting the main text (indeed, he throws an 'eighty-first' word story in his final footnote). I didn't count up (clearly I'm a sad man, but not THAT sad) but I would guess you will actually learn around 160-200 word origins in all.

Initially, I was worried by the quantity of words and phrases either little known or no longer in use. Who has heard of words like zabernism, ampster, donnybrook or Newcastle programme (the one piece of information I failed to validate through Google as it seems only the author has heard of that one) And why should we care I can tell you that even these chapters are well worth a read. It isn't just interesting trivia you're learning - it's history, and history is always worth learning from.

If you're a trivia fan, or have one who is special in your life with a birthday coming up, this is a perfect treat. Beautifully crafted in design and with every sentence executed with aplomb, I find it hard to imagine any 'lifelong learner' or fan of words - or even just fan of other countries and cultures - failing to thoroughly enjoy this round-the-world trip.

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