Spilling the Beans on the Cat's Pajamas by Judy Parkinson

Spilling the Beans on the Cat’s Pajamas
by Judy Parkinson (Readers Digest, 176 pp.)

If there are wordsmiths or language lovers on your Christmas list this year might I recommend this volume in the series from Readers Digest Blackboard books?  It is an interesting and useful volume for those fascinated by the unique expressions that find their way into our vocabulary:

“Make no bones about it”–here’s a “grand slam” for anyone seeking the meanings of catch phrases and quotes that enrich our everyday speech. It “rounds up the usual suspects”–hundreds of expressions that keep our language flourishing–and makes them easy to find in an A-to-Z format. If “all goes according to plan,” you’ll soon know:

  • The expressions “all that glitters is not gold” and “apple of the eye” have each been in use for more than 1,000 years.
  • “To bark up the wrong tree” comes from the sport of raccoon hunting.
  • “The big enchilada” was used to describe someone on the infamous Watergate tapes.
  • “Flavor of the month” was a generic advertising phrase of the mid-1940s used to describe new ice cream flavors.
  • “Baker’s dozen” is 13, one more than the standard dozen, and goes back to medieval times, when Henry III called for the severe punishment of any bakers caught shortchanging customers. English bakers developed the habit of including an extra loaf of bread when asked for a dozen to ensure that they wouldn’t be condemned.
  • “Drop of a hat” alludes to the frontier practice of dropping a hat as a signal for a boxing or wrestling match to begin, usually the only formality observed.
  • “Sleep tight” dates back to when beds were made of rope and straw. Before going to sleep at night, people would have to pull the ropes tight, as they would have loosened during the course of the previous night’s sleep.
  • With this clever book on hand, you’ll never have to “throw in the towel” during a battle of wits. Make this and all of the Blackboard Books(tm) a permanent fixture on your shelf, and you’ll have instant access to a breadth of knowledge. Whether you need homework help or want to win that trivia game, this series is the trusted source for fun facts.

    This is one of those books that you can keep handy to peruse when you have a spare moment or delve into when you are seeking the origins of a particular phrase.

    Writers, teachers, or anyone interested in English and colloquialisms will enjoy this one.

    Kevin Holtsberry
    I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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