New Words for Old: Recycling Our Language for the Modern World by Caroline Taggart

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New Words for Old: Recycling Our Language for the Modern World by Caroline Taggart

Category: Trivia
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Generally a fun look at how words have changed and adopted new, often technology-based, meanings. It's not perfect but pretty much serves its purpose.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: November 2015
Publisher: Michael O'Mara
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781782434726

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I never declare myself off to have a 'kip', as I recall reading that it originally meant the same amount of sleeping – and activity – as happens in a whorehouse. The word 'cleave' can mean either to split apart, or to connect together, and I'm sure there's another word that has completely changed its meaning from one end of things to another although I can't remember which. Certainly, literally has tried its best to make a full switch through rampant misuse. Such is the nature of our language – fluid both in spelling until moderately recently, and definitely in meaning. This attempt at capturing a corner of the trivia/words/novelty market is interested in such tales from the etymological world – the way we have adapted old words for our own, modern and perhaps very different usages. Certainly, having browsed it over a week, I can declare it a pretty strong attempt.

There you go – 'browser'. Such words just fall over one's lips without really being aware of it, and this one, which didn't just have a connection to books before it took on new life as a technological term, isn't even in these pages. (I did find some other instances where things could have been taken further – loophole ends with the legal sense, without reaching the literary sense so often seen in blockbuster films.) But a lot is in here, and will appeal to the fan of words and their usage, and trivia. Mall comes from a croquet-type game that will never be seen in many shopping centres again. A quiz was originally something eccentric. A Roman Catholic saint invented the android. It's all phreaky stuff.

Some of the said stuff I had to question in my mind, before deeming the author as more knowledgeable than me, and moving on. She says we have cataracts in our eyes not just from the waterfalls, but from the ocular disruption a portcullis gives us; I thought we have juggernauts on our roads due to Jagannath the Hindi god, but she derives it more from the inexorable motion of the cart he is paraded on and not directly from his name. She also has bug in the insect term as being Americanised, when it feels more universal to me.

But like I say, this author knows her bulbs – sorry, onions. For those who revel in where Muzak came from, or how goldfish and soldiers both live in tanks, or the different meanings of tablet through ages, this will go down with no sugaring. Most of the words are common (nutraceutical aside, perhaps), and whether they're portmanteau words, bastard hybrids of both Greek and Latin (as television was once famously declared to be), or something related to a modern idea you have no interest in (tweeting, in my case) the book will please. I just was left thinking a second edition (with my browser included) will be taken to get it right. In ending with the source of colour associations – yellow as cowardly, for instance – Taggart has red flags as Communist and revolutionary, which is a westernised idea nowhere near the reason so many Islamic countries have red flags. This book taught me a lot, but it might be back to school for a revision before it's perfect.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Having proven that our language is evolving, it's time to check on what's endangered about it – try The Horologicon: A Day's Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English Language by Mark Forsyth.

Buy New Words for Old: Recycling Our Language for the Modern World by Caroline Taggart at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy New Words for Old: Recycling Our Language for the Modern World by Caroline Taggart at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy New Words for Old: Recycling Our Language for the Modern World by Caroline Taggart at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy New Words for Old: Recycling Our Language for the Modern World by Caroline Taggart at Amazon.com.


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