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Why is Q Always Followed by U?

The cover of the paperback edition of Michael Quinion's book 'Why is Q Always Followed by U?'

Quinion’s answers to questions about the meanings and histories behind the quirky phrases, slang and language that we all use are set to delight, amuse and enlighten even the most knowledgeable word-obsessive. Did you know that ‘Blighty’ comes from an ancient Arabic word? Or that Liberace cried his way to the bank so many times people think he coined the phrase? That cloud nine started out as cloud seven in 30s America? And that the first person to have their thunder stolen was a dismal playwright from Drury Lane? Why is Q Always Followed by U? is full of surprising discoveries, entertaining quotations and memorable information. There are plenty of colourful tales out there, but Michael Quinion will help you discover the truth that lies behind the cock-and-bull stories. Read more ...

Port Out Starboard Home

The cover of the paperback edition of Michael Quinion's book 'Port Out Starboard Home'

Why is a satisfying meal square rather than any other shape? Who actually was The Real McCoy? In this rich exploration of the wilder shores of the English language, Michael Quinion reveals the true history of terms ranging from Fair Dinkum to Welsh Rabbit and debunks the myths that have grown up around the origins of words as diverse as OK, jazz and posh. This last word means something elegant or stylishly luxurious; the most widely believed story is that it comes from old-time ship travel from Britain to India. The trouble is there's absolutely no evidence for it. Hilarious, chatty and brilliantly erudite, POSH is a fascinating treasure-trove of for anyone who has ever stopped to wonder what really inspired the words and phrases that pepper our everyday conversations. Read more ...


The cover of Michael Quinion's book 'Gallimaufry'

Words are always changing. Here is a selection of some of the most interesting examples of words and meanings that are vanishing from our vocabulary. Sometimes a word is lost when the thing it describes becomes obsolete: would you wear a billycock? Sometimes it survives in a figurative sense while the original meaning is lost: what was the first paraphernalia? Sometimes it simply gives way to a more popular alternative: who still goes to the picture house to watch the talkies? The story of these and many other words is brought vividly to life by the author, and illustrated by numerous historical references and quotations from writers down the years, including Samuel Pepys and Jane Austen, William Shakespeare and Patrick O’Brian. Read more ...

Last updated 19 May 2010

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World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 19 May 2010.