Sayings of the Century by Nigel Rees; Wordly Wise by James McDonald; The State of the Language: English Observed by Philip Howard - review by Kingsley Amis

Kingsley Amis

Snobs & Stuffed Shirts

Sayings of the Century


Allen & Unwin 278pp £8.95 order from our bookshop

Wordly Wise


Constable 303pp £9.95 order from our bookshop

The State of the Language: English Observed


Hamish Hamilton 192pp £8.95 order from our bookshop

I am not sure what the connection is between the decline of written and spoken English and the outpouring of books on words, not just dictionaries and guides to usage but collections of slang, quotations, proverbs, catch phrases, dialect expressions, paradoxes, bulls, euphemisms and puns just for a start. I have in my sell-off pile a work entirely devoted to oxymoron. (Volumes on hendiadys, synecdoche and aposiopesis to follow?)

But anyway, out they continue to pour. Nigel Rees, famous as a broadcaster on the subject, has collected hundreds of well-known modern sayings and traced them back to their origins. The stock of human knowledge is not much advanced by the enterprise and the reader is quickly reduced to torpor

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