A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi: The Origin of Foreign Words Used in English
by Chloe Rhodes
Readers Digest Books, 2010
Carpe Diem and Become a Word Connoisseur!
English is filled with a smorgasbord of foreign words and phrases that have entered our language from many sources — some from as far back as the Celts. A Certain “Je Ne Sais Quoi,” which tells the story of how many of these expressions came to be commonly used in English, will both amaze and amuse language lovers everywhere. You’ll be fascinated to learn, for instance, that . . .
- ketchup began life as a spicy pickled fish sauce called koechiap in seventeenth-century China?
- honcho came from the Japanese world hancho, which means squad chief? The world was brought to the United States something during the 1940s by soldiers who had served in Japan.
- dungarees comes from the Hindi word dungri, the thick cotton cloth used for sails and tents in India?
Organized alphabetically for easy reference, A Certain “Je Ne Sais Quoi” tells the little-known origin of some of these thousands of foreign words and phrases — from aficionado to zeitgeist. Inside, you’ll find translations, definitions, origins, and lively descriptions of each item’s evolution into our everyday discourse. With this whimsical little book, you’ll be ready to throw out a foreign word or phrase at your next party, lending your conversation with, well, a certain je ne sais quoi.
If you are fascinated by the origins of words in the English language, you’ll enjoy this little book. My only complaint is that it did not include a pronunciation guide.
Chloe Rhodes is a freelance journalist who has worked for The Telegraph, Guardian and The Times as well as numerous other respected publications. She lives in North London with her husband.