Bagels, Bumf, and Buses: A Day in the Life of the English Language

ISBN : 9780198832270

Simon Horobin
256 Pages
141 x 141 mm
Pub date
Nov 2019


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  • An entertaining insight into the origins of the words we use every day
  • Takes the reader on a journey through a typical day's activities and the words used to describe them
  • Written by a leading expert in the English language

Where do our everyday words come from? The bagel you eat for breakfast, the bumf you have to wade through at the office, and the bus that takes you home again: we use these words without thinking about their origins or how their meanings have changed over time. Simon Horobin takes the reader on a journey through a typical day, showing how the words we use to describe routine activities - getting up, going to work, eating meals - have surprisingly fascinating histories.


Starting the Day
1: Getting up
2: Breakfasting
3: Getting dressed
4: Commuting
5: The office
6: Law and Order
7: Politics
8: Religion
9: Health services
10: Parenting
Eating and drinking
11: Breaktimes
12: Mealtimes
13: Eating out
Sport and leisure
14: Sport
15: Animals
16: Going out
17: Drinking
18: Staying in

About the author: 

Simon Horobin is Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Magdalen College. He is the author of The English Language: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2018), How English Became English (OUP, 2016), and Does Spelling Matter? (OUP, 2013). He has appeared as an English language expert on radio and television programmes such as Radio 2's Jeremy Vine Show and Radio 4's Stephen Fry's English Delight.

"Horobin's often humorous and always enthusiastic work will entertain readers by revealing the dynamic nature of language." - Publishers Weekly

"For anyone curious about where everyday English words "come from," this accessible text will prove to be an enticing choice, as well as a useful guide for general readers seeking resources on English usage and popular linguistics." - Library Journal

"A book to make you stop and marvel over words we use unthinkingly every day. Simon Horobin offers a tantalising glimpse into the hidden lives of our vocabulary. If you've ever pondered why eggs is eggs, or whether toadying up to someone ever involved a real amphibian, this is the book for you." - Susie Dent, lexicographer and etymologist

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