* NOTICE: Mr. Center's Wall is on indefinite hiatus. Got something to say about it? Click HERE and type.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Book Recommendation #1

I hope to make many such recommendations as time goes on, and here is the first.

In a recent facebook post (within five minutes of writing these very words, as it so happens), I used the phrase "beat around the bush."  Just as I find etymology intriguing, so I find the derivation of common phrases (is there a word for that? --Devin?).  So I googled it.  Pshaw.  A million listings (well, 81300).

Then I remembered a truly excellent book given me by my father for my birthday this past summer:

Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

The name alone should indicate this thing should be great, and I refer you to www.bn.com to check it out:

The only problem so far, is that I'm not used to having this wonderful resource, but I'm getting there.  Each time I use it, I'm more grateful I've got it, and, hopefully, that much more likely to remember it the next time I think I need to google something.

So back to the phrase.  This is Brewer's description under the heading "Beat," subheading, "Beat about the bush, to:"

Beat (Old English beatan).  The first sense of the word was that of striking.  That of overcoming or defeating developed from this.  As a noun, a beat is a track, range or walk, trodden or beaten by the feet, as the 'beat of a policeman'.

Beat about the bush, To.  To approach a matter cautiously, in a roundabout way; to SHILLY-SHALLY.  The reference is probably to the hunting of birds by night when they are resting or roosting.  The bushes are beaten, the birds are disturbed and fly out, and they are then netted or stunned as they try to escape.

What I love is how concise it is, and that you can look up practically anything.  While someone who is particular about what they find, the book might prove disappointing.  It doesn't have "practically" everything.  I lied.  Practically speaking, it has a wide assortment, but this actually acts to improve its value.  While you sit there and twiddle through the pages wondering if they must have put your chosen word, phrase, or fable in the wrong spot (as you've all done with a dictionary at least once in your lives), you will find three, four, or fifteen items that you were definitely not looking for but you're glad you found.  Brilliant!

To give you an idea, here is a list (without accompanying descriptions/definitions) of the other words just under the main heading "beat:"

Beat about, To; Beat about the bush, To; Beat an alarm, To; Beat a retreat, To; Beat down, to; Beaten at the post; Beat Generation, The; Beat it, To; Beat one's breast, To; Beat retreat, To; Beat someone hollow, To; Beat someone's brains out, To; Beat the air, To; Beat the band, To; Beat the bounds, To; Beat the bush while another takes the bird, To; Beat the clock, To; Beat the Devil's tattoo, To; Beat the drum for, To; Beat the Dutch, to; Beat time, To; Beat up, To; Can you beat it? Dead beat; It beats me; Not in my beat; That beats Banagher

If you've got an ounce of curiosity in you, you've got to be wondering what in the world could possibly be said about some of these.  I am!  What in the world does "That beats Banagher" mean?  (You might like to know--and this actually explains a lot--that this is a Brittish publication.)

So check it out.  Get a used copy at amazon or something.  This is the most fun I've had with a book since....  Well, I don't know.  This is a fun book.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Be sure to subscribe to the thread to receive discussion updates.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...