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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Certain "Je Ne Sais Quoi": The Origin of Foreign Words Used in English...Review

About the book:
Organized alphabetically for easy reference,
A Certain "Je Ne Sais Quoi" is an accessible lexicon of foreign words and phrases used in English, containing everything from aficionado (Spanish) to zeitgeist (German). Inside you'll find translations, definitions, origins, and a descriptive time line of each item's evolution. Entries include:

À la carte: from the card or of the menu (French)

Fiasco: complete failure (Italian)

Dungarees: thick cotton cloth/overalls (Hindi)

Diaspora: dispersion (Greek)

Smorgasbord: bread and butter (Swedish)

Cognoscenti: those who know (Italian)

Compos mentis: having mastery of one's mind; with it (Latin)

Attractively packaged with black and white illustrations, this whimsical yet authoritative book is a great gift for any etymologically fascinated individual. Use this book to reacquaint yourself with the English language, and you'll be compos mentis in no time.

A sheer delight. Like many readers, I love words. I love discovering the origins of words and phrases. Here, I discovered that the origin of paparazzi means mosquito. How appropriate is that? Or how we use the term Al Fresco to mean "in the fresh air" but in Italy it's slang for "in prison".

I was familiar with many of these words and phrases, but not how they came into such wide use. This is one of those fun books that you can just pick up on a whim and entertain yourself. It's a fast, easy read if you want to read it in one sitting. But, I see it placed on a shelf or end table for someone to pick up and peruse for an enlightening few minutes.

Thanks to Julie Harabedian at FSB Associates for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about the book here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 4/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars


  1. That does sound like a fun book! I'd probably drive Carl crazy if I read it.

  2. I think I would really enjoy this book. It would be fun to have on your coffee table so others could pick it up and flip through it too.

  3. This sounds really good, and I was thinking what bermudaonion was--I would drive my family crazy reading it!

  4. I just finished this book! I liked it too!

    I have an award for you!