Lead Review

  • Book: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Location: World
  • Author: Jules Verne

Review Author: tripfiction



In this captivating round-the-world jaunt, Paul Anthony Jones reveals the hidden histories, tales and global adventures that lie within the pages of our dictionaries. It is a beautifully presented book that offers fascinating facts and insights into the origins of words and concepts.

First stop France and a perusal of the Vaudeville… a journey via a Monsieur Basselin, born in Vire, who liked nothing better than bawdy interludes in the 15th Century, (known as chansons de vau de vire)… which of course eventually morphed into Vaudeville. On to Germany via Saverne and Spa (Belgium) to the origins of Neanderthal and the importance of human remains found near Düsseldorf.

Bergamot comes from Bergamo in Italy and a multitude of pigments used in painting also originated in the country, (known for a wealth of great painting talents). Umber is probably from ombra, which means shadow (tenuously via Umbria as well) and Magenta hails from the town of the same name, via a bloody battle.

Satsumas found a circuitous route from Japan to the Southern United States; and then it’s on to Australia where a Queensland sore is a festering manifestation associated with scurvy. Then there is the country whose etymological contribution to the English language includes a dog, a sauce, a chilli pepper and possibly a clapped-out old car (any guesses as to which country that would be?). Discover the origins of a Toronto Blessing or find out what a Pisgah View might be. And just how did a tiny hamlet in Nottinghamshire become Gotham City? It’s all in the book and more.

It is a fascinating labour of love, that the author has delved into so many common words and found their oftentimes elusive etymology. The research is simply breathtaking and the attention to detail is striking. There is indeed so much knowledge to be had out there, if only one knows where to look! And this book is a good place to start.

Overall a wonderful book to pick up and read a chapter or two at a time. The layout, with the footnotes, isn’t ideal however… they sometimes continue across pages and very often I would read down and realise there was an irrelevant text going on at the bottom that was a continuation from the previous page. A line to distinguish would be good.

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