Phrases, idioms, and clichés—why do we say the things we say? Watch Your Tongue explores weird and wonderful everyday sayings and what they reveal about us.
Do you ever wonder why you shouldn’t have a cow but you should seize a bull by its horns? Who has the better reputation in language—cats or dogs? Do you sometimes feel that our speech is all smoke and mirrors or that our expressions simply make no sense?
In Watch Your Tongue, award-winning author Mark Abley explores the phrases, idioms, and clichés of our everyday language. With wit and subtle wisdom, he unravels the mysteries of these expressions, illuminating the history, tradition and stories behind everything we say. Pulling examples from Shakespeare’s plays to sports team names, ancient Rome to Twitter, Abley shares samples and anecdotes of the eccentric ways that we play with, parse, and pattern language.
Why do so many companies use fruit for their brand names? What do politicians mean when they say they’re going to “drain the swamp”? Why does English use chickens to signify cowardice? Abley dives into the history and psychology behind these examples and countless others, unpacking their significance (and sheer absurdity) to show how our language developed, where it is headed, and what we can learn about ourselves from it.
Whimsically illustrated, easily browsable, and full of catchy sidebars, Watch Your Tongue celebrates how we amuse ourselves with words and what our sayings reveal about the way we see the world.
Mark Abley is an award-winning poet, journalist, and author. His books include The Prodigal Tongue: Dispatches from the Future of English and Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages, a New York Times Notable Book, a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year, a Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year, and a Discover Magazine Top 20 Science Book of the Year. Abley lives in Montreal. Learn more at MarkAbley.com.