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Contents Introduction 1 Part I Origins How old is an earthling? 5 Dates of first use, origins of words The Welsh penguin 9 Borrowed words Wanted: A computer, female, age 18-25 13 Neologisms, words with changed meanings Who is that word? 15 Words and idioms derived from people's names Cornflakes¼ or cornflakes? 17 Trademark words, company names The makings of fashionable language 20 Shakespearean origins The origin of phrases 22 Etymology of idioms Part II Pronunciation and Spelling Mispellings (sic) 27 Wrongly spelt words Why is 'colonel' pronounced 'kernel'? 30 Pronunciation, homographs Sounds good to me 33 Onomatopoeia, most beautiful words, worst-sounding words A cheerful but challenging chapter 35 Alliteration, tongue-twisters Part III Usage The of to in 39 Common words, Basic English Divided by a common language 42 British and American English TCIWR: This Chapter Is Worth Reading 45 Abbreviations, shortened words, acronyms, initialisms A chapter a day keeps the word blues away 48 Proverbs, perverbs The mother of all chapters 51 Sobriquets A chapter of epidemic proportions 53 Clich_s Doing the horizontal polka! 55 Euphemisms, dyslogisms One part in a processed tree carcass 57 Politically correct language God save the baked bean 60 Slang, Cockney rhyming slang Part IV Meanings Ostrobogulous words 65 Strange and wondrous words What is a loquacious agnostic? 68 Dictionaries She slept like a hot knife through butter 70 Metaphors, mixed metaphors Part V Peculiarities This chapter is sound - all sound 75 Figures of speech Two dog-dog 78 Plurals The upside-down ox 83 The alphabet, alphabet words, frequencies of letters The iouae sang euouae 86 Vowels Brrrr! Shhhh! 89 Double letters, triple letters A tip-top higgledy-piggledy hodge-podge 91 Reduplicated words, paired words A collective of nouns 93 Collective nouns Part VI Illogicalities Squad helps dog bite victim 96 Illogicalities, ambiguous sentences, garden path sentences This vacuum cleaner really sucks 99 Self-contradictory sentences, autoantonyms A seriously funny chapter 102 Oxymorons Redundancies in close proximity 104 Pleonasms, redundant language, tautologies There ain't never been no better chapter 107 Double negatives Part VII Language Play A good pun is its own reword 113 Puns, riddles "We're out of whisky," Tom said dispiritedly 116 Tom Swifties Tips of the slung 119 Spoonerisms The use of the oracular tongue 122 Malapropisms, easily confused words, Colemanballs, mondegreens Ailihphilia 127 Palindromes, word-unit palindromes, palindromic squares A miscellany of curiosities 131 Index 135 About the author 140
Library of Congress Subject Headings for this publication:
English language -- Etymology.
English language -- Humor.
English language -- Usage.
English language -- History.