Thursday, August 26, 2010

Review: A Certain "Je Ne Sais Quoi" by Chloe Rhodes

I am a word nerd. My favorite part of the National Spelling Bee is when the competitors ask for the definition or derivation of a word. I find it completely and totally fascinating to know the origins (sometimes far afield from our current usage) of the words we use in English today. English is such a polyglot language, almost a living organism picking up words from other languages that are just so appropriate for something we have yet to name. This book takes many of these words and phrases and informs the curious reader from whence they came.

Set up in a dictionary format with words and their explanations listed alphabetically, there are some delightfully tongue in cheek comments scattered throughout the text, especially in the example sentences. And the occasional cartoons illustrating some of the phrases are a complete hoot. I was surprised by how many of the words for which I already knew the origins. Even more interestingly, I use quite a few of these fabulous foreign imports in my daily life. I guess the fact that the words are listed in this book means they aren't as common as I'd thought and would explain the funny glazed expression people sometimes get on their faces when they are listening to me. (But really, who doesn't know what debacle means? Seriously.) This type of book probably doesn't have a widespread appeal but it is perfect reading for your average English major and even minor. Personally I thought it was just plain interesting. Now I have to get up the courage to read the one about math terms!

Thanks to Julie at FSB Associates for sending me a review copy of this book.


  1. Oh, what a great book! I HAVE to have it.

  2. I love that you compared the English language to a living organism. Clever :)

    This book sounds like it's right up my alley! Thanks for the review.

  3. This sounds like such a fun book! I know sometimes people are like 'what?' when I say certain words. It's always fun to be around word nerds because I can let loose with the vocabulary I have picked up through reading.

    - Christy

  4. I love this kind of book too, will keep an eye out for it.

  5. This is going on my have-to-have-it list, Kristen. The math terms version? I'll pass.


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