The Cabinet of Calm: Words for Worrying Times

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle enjoys a new lexicon of useful words for troubled times

We live in strange and worrying times. If hindsight, as Billy Wilder once said, is always 20:20, then our own hindsight on 2020 will surely be dominated by widespread unrest, a global pandemic, and that word previous associated more with prisons and areas of lawlessness: ‘lockdown’. There are several words which have come to the fore in 2020, not least the (already outdated-sounding) ‘COVID-19’, to say nothing of the (already exceedingly annoying) ‘new normal’ and (wildly inaccurate) ‘social distancing’. Perhaps word-historians of the future will write whole books on ‘the language of 2020’.

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Journeying through Language: Around the World in 80 Words

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle enjoys a world tour of the English language courtesy of Paul Anthony Jones’s new book

They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but ‘they’, of course are wrong. They’re especially wrong in the case of Paul Anthony Jones’s books of language trivia, which are becoming as much of an annual event – at least at IL Towers – as Jools’s Hootenanny or eating too much Christmas dinner. Last year’s book was a year’s guide to the English language – a yearbook of forgotten words, going through the calendar from 1st January to 31st December – and sported a beautifully designed cover that made it equally ideal for putting on show on the coffee table as hiding away as a private pleasure in the smallest room. And Jones’s new book, Around the World in 80 Words: A Journey Through the English Language (Elliott and Thompson), which is a geographical rather than chronological journey through the English language, sports an equally delightful blue-and-gold cover which matches perfectly the glittering facts to be found within.

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