Saturday, 27 October 2018

Watch Your Tongue: What Our Everyday Sayings and Idioms Figuratively Mean


Author: Mark Abley
Genre: Nonfiction
Type: Paperback
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
First Published: October 30, 2018
Opening Lines: "It was a blue winter day in downtown Montreal, and I was standing among thousands of other shivering people on the city's main shopping street".

Book Description from GoodReadsDo you ever wonder why you shouldn’t have a cow but you should seize a bull by its horns? Who has the better reputation in language—cats or dogs? Do you sometimes feel that our speech is all smoke and mirrors or that our expressions simply make no sense?

In Watch Your Tongue, award-winning author Mark Abley explores the phrases, idioms, and clich├ęs of our everyday language. With wit and subtle wisdom, he unravels the mysteries of these expressions, illuminating the history, tradition and stories behind everything we say. Pulling examples from Shakespeare’s plays to sports team names, ancient Rome to Twitter, Abley shares samples and anecdotes of the eccentric ways that we play with, parse, and pattern language.

Why do so many companies use fruit for their brand names? What do politicians mean when they say they’re going to “drain the swamp”? Why does English use chickens to signify cowardice? Abley dives into the history and psychology behind these examples and countless others, unpacking their significance (and sheer absurdity) to show how our language developed, where it is headed, and what we can learn about ourselves from it.

Whimsically illustrated, easily browsable, and full of catchy sidebars, Watch Your Tongue celebrates how we amuse ourselves with words and what our sayings reveal about the way we see the world.

My Rating: 4 stars

Watch Your Tongue explores idioms and popular phrases that most of us use daily without much thought to their origins. Throughout the book Mark Abley shares tidbits of wisdom that makes for an entertaining read that the average Joe and the avid wordsmith will both enjoy.


The book is broken down into several topics (animals, feelings, foreign idioms, religious, Shakespearean …) and describes the history of some popular and not so popular idioms. Language is constantly evolving and Abley doesn’t waste any time diving in to explore the history of ubiquitous idioms but be forewarned, once you start reading this book, you’ll start noticing idioms everywhere. 

It’s a quick read that can be picked up in fits and spurts and Abley has gone the extra mile to help readers understand the origin of English idioms. To make a long story short, the descriptions are informative as well as entertaining and may keep you up burning the midnight oil with Abley’s humour and so many idioms and phrases that it’ll boggle your mind.  So, give it a whirl … you may just find yourself adding idioms to your everyday conversations willy-nilly (how was THAT for idiom overload!?!).

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Simon and Schuster Canada for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

1 comment:

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