SOCIAL SCIENCES

Bagels, Bumf, and Buses: A Day in the Life of the English Language

Oxford Univ. Jan. 2020. 224p. index. ISBN 9780198832270. $21.95. COMM
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Horobin (English, Oxford Univ.) has written a short guide to the etymology of some commonly used English words. In tracing the origin of everyday language—terms used to describe everything from the moment we wake in the morning (the origin of alarm comes from the Italian all’arme “to arms”) to evening activities and pastimes such as the theater, chess or musicals, we learn that familiar expressions have myriad linguistic sources. Using a “day in our lives” as an organizing principle, Horobin shows how words associated with breakfast, getting dressed, going to work, meals, and sports and leisure activities have various and disparate linguistic origins.
VERDICT For anyone curious about where everyday English words “come from,” this accessible text will prove to be an enticing choice, as well as a useful guide for general readers seeking resources on English usage and popular linguistics.

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