Tuesday, April 6th, 2010 11:17 am

(Buy from Amazon.ca)

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Organized alphabetically for easy reference, A Certain "Je Ne Sais Quoi" is an accessible lexicon of foreign words and phrases used in English, containing everything from aficionado (Spanish) to zeitgeist (German). Inside you'll find translations, definitions, origins, and a descriptive timeline of each item's evolution. Attractively packaged with black and white illustrations, this whimsical yet authoritative book is a great gift for any etymologically fascinated individual. Use this book to reacquaint yourself with the English language, and you'll be compos mentis in no time.

Thoughts: As far as language trivia books go, this one isn't too bad. The layout is good, the entries interesting but not so detailed as to turn a casual reader off, and the images that sometimes accompany the entries are amusing.

The only complaint that I have about this book is that it's very obvious that it wasn't changed in the slightest when brought from a British to a North American publisher and audience. There are terms explained in the book that I've never heard used before, and some terms explained that I know are typically British, such as "nosh." This isn't a terrible thing, but it might alienate some readers from the concepts being explained. Language as a concept is universal, but specific languages and dialects don't always travel well, and I think that should have been kept more in mind.

Otherwise, though, this was an interesting book. So long as you aren't looking for detailed explanations of how English got its loan words, of course, but then again, that's not what this book is for. That's what academic books are for. (Not that I'd mind getting my hands on some of those, either!)