Home > Categories > Books > Reference > Bloomsbury Dictionary of Idioms review
From credit crunch to golden parachute, barking up the wrong tree to storm in a tea cup, in this book, Gordon Jarvie explains all you need to know about these and 3,000 other common English idioms. Packed with nuggets of fascinating information, the Bloomsbury Dictionary of Idioms traces the origins of these phrases, explains meanings and gives examples of up-to-date usage. Ideal for word buffs and English students alike, this book will help all users of English to mind their (linguistic) Ps and Qs.
Gordon Jarvie is the author of the original Dictionary of Idioms (Bloomsbury, 1996) and the Bloomsbury Grammar Guide (2007). He has written widely on language and punctuation. He developed his interest in idioms as a textbook publisher for learners of English as a foreign language, many of whom struggle - quite understandably - with the idea of raining cats and dogs, talking turkey and vicious circles.
Those who know me, know I love books like these. I'm not sure I should admit that books like this are bedtime reading for me, but again, those who know me would not be surprised.
Idioms are part of daily language. We hear them everywhere, some of which we can explain, other idioms are harder to explain and almost all are hard to identify the origin of the idioms. Some have been lost in history (wanting to avoid "mists of time" which incidentally is a cliche rather than an idiom). In fact, it is tempting to litter this review with plenty of idioms - but I am sure than the effort to do so would drive me to lunacy, and produce something quite unreadable at the same time. I will leave this to better writers than me.
The dictionary is laid out alphabetically by keyword(s) as one would expect, and where there is more than one keyword (such as time), there is a list of the idioms. Sometimes what would be the more obvious keyword is not what the author has used (but Jarvie is the expert and not me) but for those illogical people like myself, there is a handy index of additional keywords (though not page numbers (thus reducing the 'ease of use' just a smidgen.
In some areas there are other sections (probably not the most logically placed, but it does break up the text. These define the difference between proverbs and sayings, or similes or dyads for example, to provide interest and information.
There are many examples of humour to be found within the pages, and almost a touch of Dr Johnson about some of the explanations and definitions.
Overall, I can heartily recommend the Bloomsbury Dictionary of Idioms. It is a valuable addition to any wordsmith's bookshelf.
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