A review of Word Drops by Paul Anthony Jones
If words were calories, this book would have you breaking the scales. To support my outrageous claim I refer you to urban legends which assert that certain brands of savoury snacks have ‘something in them’ which makes the brain crave more and more until the whole packet is gone. Whatever that something is, Paul Anthony Jones has imbibed plenty of it before compiling this endearing little book.
Let’s be honest, quirky word compendiums are as numerous as the dictionaries upon which they draw. What makes this book unique is the way in which it is put together. Take, for example, the following set of entries:
- Casablanca means ‘white house’.
- In the nineteenth century, shoemakers were nicknamed ambassadors of Morocco.
- The Atlantic Ocean is named after the Atlas Mountains in Morocco.
- Ocean derives from okeanos, the name of a great river the Ancient Greeks believed encircled the Earth.
- An epirot is someone who lives nowhere near the coast.
As you can see, they have been arranged in such a way that each leads to the next, which leads to the next and so on. Like the crisps in the packet, each snaps with a satisfying crunch in the brain and has you reaching for the next one.
The book can be consumed at numerous levels, since some entries are one-liners, whereas others give more explanation for those who would like it. It can be dipped into, to see what comes out of the packet next, or you can line all the verbal snacks up in a row and consume them like linguistic dominoes. If you are logofascinated (‘spellbound by language’, according to the book) you may find it very hard to tear yourself away.
This book is no more a serious etymological reference work than my packet of crisps is a Michelin-starred meal. It is a treat for the curious mind, and should be read as such. If you are interested, I suggest you do not perendinate (couldn’t resist) but buy a copy today.