Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Phraseology - Barbara Ann Kipfer

I'm confused as to the purpose of this book - it is supposed to provide etymology and origins of words, or act more as a casual dictionary?

There are definitions of English mustard (mustard), english breakfast (a large fry) and English Breakfast tea (surprisingly, tea). To me these words are nouns, not phrases.

I suppose I should have guessed that it might not be the best when I saw the defition of the phrase "pushing the envelope" that features on the cover. "A pilot's term for flying an aircraft at or beyond its reasonable limits". That's the definition alright, but what about the origin as promised at the top of the cover?

I went straight to the definition of one of my favourite phrases - "mind your p's and q'". Kipper gives the definition as being an admonishment used by teachers monitoring students' handwriting. There's no mention of two other widely-accepted theories. Firstly, a warning to typesetters in the days of printing presses when the letter 'q' did not feature its characteristic tail, and hence could be mistaken for a 'p' in reverse. The second hails back to the days of drinking pints and quarts in public houses and recording of such on the slate.

For me this was the acid test, and the book failed it.

Ultimately, it's a novelty book, and you probably will learn something from it. But you'll probably be better off searching on the internet.

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