The Horologicon: A Day's Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English Language by Mark Forsyth

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The Horologicon: A Day's Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English Language by Mark Forsyth
Buy The Horologicon: A Day's Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English Language from Amazon.co.uk

Buy The Horologicon: A Day's Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English Language from Amazon.com

Genre: Trivia
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: An incredibly quotable, entertaining and amusing gallimaufry of words you don't use enough – mostly because you've never heard of them.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: November 2012
Publisher: Icon Books
ISBN: 9781848314153

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This book just had to be called The Horologicon. Originally it meant a daily diary of devotion for a priest or monk. Our author knows it is a rare word these days and gives it to his modern Book of Hours, which is a guide to similarly obsolete, charming or unusually whimsical words set out, not as others do, as a dictionary, but in essays for every waking hour of the day, and the subject they're most likely to cover.

Hence we start with all our expergefactors, such as the reveille – yes, while some of the words he includes are bound to be known to the more literate, every page will have something memorable or quotable on. You probably know, for example, what you do when you eructate, but not perhaps with the accompanying wamblecropt. If you know uxorious, you probably don't know the companion word meaning husband-adoring. When we shower our oxters in the morning we are at least using a word the Scrabble dictionary is catering for, but many are the instances when things are just too obscure, or too localised. That's not a problem here whatsoever.

Forsyth is a brilliant advocate for dropping ridiculous words and phrases into the common language, as these chatty, humorous essays prove. While he can at times use a vocabulary a little too extreme for the absolute layman – he uses the word piratish in the general text once when others would only know to stick to piratical – he can still prove his lightness of comedic touch when going through the day's routine. He also proves a brilliant erudition and fancy for trivia when discussing turtle feasts, gin pennants and other bygone sundries. His lavatorial euphemisms are a delight to behold.

Included here are the gongoozler, which must rank as one of the most specific words ever created, and the zarf, which holds our hot drink mugs for us – that's in my mental Scrabble bank now, even if it is of exotic origin he includes it here as something we should know. He also knows levee as meaning something completely different to that which the rest of us are aware of – making Forsyth a great analecta of words. And take it from me – for I ain't no ultracrepidarianist.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Toujours Tingo by Adam Jacot de Boinod is still the best collection at words other tongues have that English hasn't.

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