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Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Seventeenth Edition Hardcover – August 1, 2006


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Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Seventeenth Edition + Dictionary of Word Origins: The Histories of More Than 8,000 English-Language Words
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Product Details

  • Series: Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (Book 17)
  • Hardcover: 1326 pages
  • Publisher: Collins Reference; 17 edition (August 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061121207
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061121203
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 7.2 x 2.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #719,035 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Every page contains some gem” (Daily Telegraph)

“It is a liberal education simply to browse through it...” (The Augusta Chronicle)

“It retains the serendipitous charm which has kept the book going for a century.” (Times Literary Supplement)

“...a best-selling barometer of popular culture since Victorian times” (The Sunday Times)

About the Author

John Ayto is a writer and lexicographer. He is the author (with Ian Crofton) of Brewer's Britain and Ireland. His other authorial credits include The Oxford Dictionary of Slang, The Bloomsbury Dictionary of Word Origins and Twentieth Century Words. He was a contributor to the Oxford Companion to Food. He lives in London.


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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 9 customer reviews
And a lot of fun.
James D. DeWitt
In the process, you end up finding something else, which may be even more interesting!
Sanjay Agarwal
I stumbled across this book in the bookstore one day and had to have it.
K. INGRAHAM

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Sanjay Agarwal on September 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I picked this book up mainly because of John Ayto's name on the cover. I had been using his 'Dictionary of Word Origins' for some years, and had found it invaluable.

The book turned out to be rather different, but in a pleasant sort of way. Essentially, the book is compilation of interesting references and words that you come across when reading, or that you need when you are writing something. Most of the information is extremely interesting, though often you get knocked from one page to another because of cross-references. In the process, you end up finding something else, which may be even more interesting! For instance, there is an entry on nose tax, and another on a tax on beards. I also found out that the banyan tree is so named because Indian traders (baniyas) used to worship under a fig tree on the Iranian coast. And that the three Magi who visited Lord Jesus Christ in Jerusalem may have been linked to the Brahmins from India!

Sometimes you don't find what you are really looking for, which is quite frustrating, especially when you think of you may be missing out on. I do wish someone would bring out a bigger edition, may be in 12 volumes?

The book is fairly big, and organized like an encyclopedic dictionary. The paper is of good quality, and the binding is quite durable.

The book is not written by John Ayto - it is a very old book (1870). This seventeenth edition has been updated by Mr. Ayto. This means that he had a great deal to say in the picking and choosing of words.

An invaluable writing tool, and quite interesting on its own. Highly recommended for the curious.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By K. INGRAHAM on February 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Ever hear a phrase or a word that you can't quite place or would love to know the derivation of? I stumbled across this book in the bookstore one day and had to have it. It sits next to my computer right beside Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. Just about any word or phrase is listed in alphabetical order. I've even spent an hour or two on a rainy afternoon thumbing through the pages til something catches my eye. Then while reading one entry, something else will come to mind and I go to that page. You could spend hours wandering through this book and not even realize how much time has gone by! Very educational in a Trivial Pursuit kind of way and great fun!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Caraculiambro on November 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A big thick reference book, totally perfect -- beyond belief excellent. Six stars. (Attention Amazon: If I had known what this was, I would have paid hundreds for it. Hundreds.)

For years, Amazon had been recommending this based on my purchases, but I had never heard of it (apparently the last man on earth to do so). Finally I decided to buy it sight unseen.

I don't think I've ever been this happy with a reference book, except maybe when I discovered Roget's Thesaurus at the age of eleven. It's one of those reference works that is so engrossing that you want to read it straight through, although it's not designed for this.

It's a collection of the origins of expressions. Have you ever wondered, for example, where the expression "chip on his shoulder" came from? If you consult even the largest unabridged dictionary, you'll get the definition of "chip" and likely the meaning of the phrase, but something I constantly wonder about is how certain words morphed into certain phrases, something that dictionaries -- even dictionaries of etymologies -- never give you. This book fills that gap. I've been poring over it myopically for a week.

Ever wonder where such expressions as "mind your p's and q's," "living high on the hog," and "the whole nine yards" come from? This is for you. But this dictionary has a lot else besides: definitions for Nicene Creed, Sir Walter Raleigh, Salmagundi, German measles, criss-cross, boondoggle, etc. I can't imagine any literate, book-loving person being unsatisfied with this tome.

Only warning I have is that it's British, so many of the interesting expressions might not seem so interesting to you if you're American, since you've probably never heard of them.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love books that educate you on when/where/how phrases came into being. It arrived promptly and in excellent condition. It is stamped as a Reference book from a library, and it must not have seen much use.
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By Conrad Berg on September 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fun to read, but not light reading in any sense of the word (it is big and it is thick!) Fun to know the origins of things we thought we knew about.
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