Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Certain “Je Ne Sais Quoi”

(or The Origin of Foreign Words Used in English)

By Chloe Rhodes

From the back of the book:

“English is filled with a smorgasbord of foreign words and phrases that have entered our language from many sources – some as far back as the Celts. A Certain ‘Je Ne Sais Quoi,’ which tells the story of how many of these expressions came to be commonly used in English will both amaze and amuse language lovers everywhere.”

As a writer, I love looking at books that explain language and this one is no exception. I was completely taken by this little book. It is chock full of examples of words we hear every day that many probably don’t know what they truly mean or where they came from.

For example, the word “Vampire” means a nocturnal reanimated corpse. According to the author, in folktales vampires were said to revisit loved ones and cause mischief or deaths where they had once lived. The term entered English in the 18th century when vampire superstitions arrived from the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

Another is the word “exposé,” which was originally used to describe a verbal or written explanation that “exposed” the reasons behind a decision. It is now used for a report that unveils the truth about an individual or organization.

Each entry includes a sentence of two using the word and some even have funny little caricatures that further describe the word and make you giggle.

I just adore this book and plan to keep it handy. That way, when I come across one of the words or phrases, I can look it up. Maybe I’ll even be able to utilize some of the phrases in my own writing? One never knows!


1 comment:

Suko said...

LuAnn, this does sound like a useful and enjoyable book. Wonderful, succinct review!