The Economist Book of Isms by John Andrews

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The Economist Book of Isms by John Andrews

Category: Trivia
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: #
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: June 2010
Publisher: Economist Books
ISBN: 978-1846682988

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I'm assuming all readers of this book, and this review, will know the meanings of the words racism, atheism and Communism. But how about Orphism? Nestorianism? Vorticism? Or the exact difference between egoism, egotism, and egocentrism? I'll confess to ignorance on all of that second trio of words before reading this book, but was fascinated to find out what they were. (Orphism is a religion originating in 6th or 7th century BC Greece based on the poems of Orpheus, who returned from Hades. I'll leave you to find out the definitions of the other two yourself!) Similarly, I was aware of all three of that final trilogy, but am not sure I even knew there was a difference, let alone that I'd have come close to being able to actually define them all as this volume does.

In addition to these definitions, there's also examples of some of the best known quotes from men like Sam Goldwyn (whose 'include me out' is a definite Goldwynism) and George W Bush (whose Bushisms are legendary.) There's not a vast number of these – especially considering there are enough Bushisms to fill several books of their own, as various previous others have shown! – but they're a nice enough addition to the book. We also get to find out where some of the more well-known isms, such as hooliganism, get their names.

This isn't a book I could read cover to cover – a few definitions can go a long, long way – but it's absolutely fascinating to dip into either when you're desperate to know the meaning of a particular word, or just interested in checking out a few random 'isms'. My main quibble with it is that some of the more obvious words, such as racism and are defined rather blandly, and it would have been nice to get a few more colourful descriptions in places. It's also worth noting that it's a fairly slim volume, so as you can imagine, the 400 plus definitions contained here tend to be on the short side – absolutely perfect as a primer for you to check out the basics, but likely to leave you looking elsewhere if you need more detailed explanations. Still, for anyone interested in words and their meanings, this is a definite recommendation to at least take a look at.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: For another interesting look at language, How to Talk Like a Local: From Cockney to Geordie, a National Companion by Susie Dent is well worth checking out.

Buy The Economist Book of Isms by John Andrews at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Economist Book of Isms by John Andrews at

Buy The Economist Book of Isms by John Andrews at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Economist Book of Isms by John Andrews at


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