The Imaginative Origins of Everyday ExpressionsEvery year a new set of phrases and words is added to the English language, some being inducted into Webster’s dictionary, some simply attaining meaning through constant public usage. Dale Corey’s new book, Inventing English: The Imaginative Origins of Everyday Expressions, covers a little bit of both.

Like an encyclopedia/dictionary hybrid, Inventing English sets out to give not only the definition of choice phrases like “Big Brother”, “Neverland” and “Lothario”, but to give the original appearance of the word, along with a brief history and social context. While most wordsmiths and readers will be familiar with a good deal of the material presented in this volume, the detail that Corey puts forth should provide at least a few new pieces of information.

Pulling strongly from Shakespeare, Jonathan Swift, George Orwell and Charles Dickens, as well as popular televion and movies, Corey sets out to shed some light on the constant evolution of the English language. Words like “Quixotic”, taken from Cervantes’ infamous knight Don Quixote and “namby-pamby”, a disparaging nickname created for the poet Ambrose Philips by his rival Henry Carey, give the book a sense of both knowledge and humor in history.

Some phrases seem a little outdated here; I’ve never heard anyone call a hotel a “Bates Motel”, though I’m extremely familiar with Psycho and I’ve never called anyone a “Walter Mitty”, though I’ve heard of the movie the phrase references. Overall, though, Inventing English is a delightful little paperback reference guide to some of the more outlandish and interesting sayings that we throw around every day.

Dale Corey studied language and literature at New York University. The author of From Achilles’ Heel to Zeus’s Shield and an illustrated children’s book, The Legend of Herkimer Diamonds, Corey lives in New York State’s Adirondack Park.

Zach’s Rating: B+
Etymologist’s rating: A-
Entomologist’s rating: C+

To purchase Inventing English, visit Amazon

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