Three centuries of English idioms—their unusual origins and unexpected interpretations
To pay through the nose. Raining cats and dogs. By hook or by crook. Curry favor. Drink like a fish. Eat crow. We hear such phrases every day, but this book is the first truly all-encompassing etymological guide to both their meanings and origins. Spanning more than three centuries, Take My Word for It is a fascinating, one-of-a-kind window into the surprisingly short history of idioms in English. Widely known for his studies of word origins, Anatoly Liberman explains more than one thousand idioms, both popular and obscure, occurring in both American and British standard English and including many regional expressions.
The origins, and even the precise meaning, of most idioms are often obscure and lost in history. Based on a critical analysis of countless conjectures, with exact, in-depth references (rare in the literature on the subject), Take My Word for It provides not only a large corpus of idiomatic phrases but also a vast bibliography. Detailed indexes and a thesaurus make the content accessible at a glance, and Liberman’s introduction and conclusion add historical dimensions. The result of decades of research by a leading authority, this book is both instructive and absorbing for scholars and general readers, who won’t find another resource as comparable in scope or based on data even remotely as exhaustive.
Anatoly Liberman is professor of Germanic philology at the University of Minnesota. He has written more than twenty books, including A Bibliography of English Etymology and An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology (both from Minnesota).
"This is a treasure trove for scholars who enjoy tracing the ever-developing nuances of the English language."—Booklist
"If you’ve ever wanted to know the origins of some of the English language’s more colorful expressions you will thoroughly enjoy paging through Anatoly Liberman's new book, Take My Word for It: A Dictionary of English Idioms"—Minnesota Alumni
"Spanning more than three centuries, Take My Word for It: A Dictionary of English Idioms is a fascinating, one-of-a-kind window into the surprisingly short history of idioms in English."—New Books Network
"Liberman writes in a way that is inclusive and accessible for all, creating not only an interesting collection of trivia that would sit attractively on any bookshelf but also providing a sort of study guide for non-native English speakers as they attempt to navigate the intrinsically difficult nature of the language."—Mankato Free Press
"Take My Word for It, while impressively scholarly, is also a highly entertaining read."—Star Tribune
"Why does so long! mean “goodbye”? Why are hatters proverbially mad? Anatoly Liberman comes to the rescue with his latest book, Take My Word for It: A Dictionary of English Idioms."—The New Criterion