Thanks to those brave people who entered our Word Quiz. The winner was Chris Scruby, who receives a copy of my Oxford A to Z of Word Games.
1. What is a pas de deux. Is it (a) the father of twins, (b) a game of dice, or (c) a dance for two people?
2. Someone who conceals his name is (a) anonymous, (b) inanimate, or (c) unanimous?
3. When talking about underwater diving, what does the abbreviation SCUBA stand for?
Self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.
4. Some Americans call it a divided highway. What is it called in Britain: (a) dual carriageway, (b) one-way street, or (c) motorway?
5. These are the names of three musical instruments: (a) dholak, (b) sousaphone, and (c) chitarrone. Which of them is a stringed instrument, which is a percussion instrument, and which is a brass instrument?
Dholak is percussion; sousaphone is brass; chitarrone is stringed.
6. What colour was named after a battle fought in Italy in 1859?
Magenta or Solferino
7. Which is the correct spelling: (a) embarassment, (b) embarrasment, or (c) embarrassment?
8. How many numbers can you find in the word PIONEER?
Pi, one, e-number, 0, 1, 10, E (the transcendental number 2.718), R (gas constant = 8.314).
9. A kind of hat is named after which character in Charles Dickens’s Barnaby Rudge?
10. Which word is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “A four-sided plane rectilinear figure whose opposite sides are parallel; esp. one whose sides do not intersect at right angles”?
Tony Augarde's latest book is called
This paperback is a collection of the best articles about words that Tony has written for Oxfordshire Limited Edition magazine: updated and enlarged. You can get it for £9.99 from booksellers and it is also available through the internet from such suppliers as Central Books (www.centralbooks.co.uk ), Amazon, Book Depository, Waterstones and W. H. Smith. There is a sample at the end of this page. There is a good review in the Guardian, see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/mar/30/et-cetera-steven-poole-non-fiction-choice
Tony's books on word games and wordplay are widely read, and have even been translated into Japanese! He is the undisputed authority on word games and wordplay. His books include The Oxford Guide to Word Games (OUP, 1984), The Oxford A to Z of Word Games (OUP, 1994) and Oxford Word Challenge (OUP, 1998).
For television he has appeared on This Morning (ITV) and Good Morning (BBC). On BBC Radio 4, he has featured in Word of Mouth, Wordly Wise, Bill Bryson's series Mother Tongue, and Stephen Fry's Fry's English Delight. He has broadcast word quizzes on Talk Radio UK, LBC and other radio stations. He plays the drums in several jazz bands, and writes a regular wordplay column for the Oxford Times's monthly magazine, Oxfordshire Limited Edition.
When he worked at the Dictionary Department of the Oxford University Press, he compiled the Oxford Intermediate Dictionary (1981), the Oxford School Dictionary (ed. 4, 1981) and the Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations (1991). He also worked on the Supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary and the Pocket Oxford Dictionary.
Tony has written pamphlets on Gandhi, remembrance and disarmament and co-edited (with Cyril Wright) the book Peace is the Way (1990). He has contributed articles to the Dictionary of National Biography, Contemporary Review, The Author, Medicine and War, Oxford Times, Oxford Today, The Pacifist, Peace Matters, Crescendo, Jazz Rag, Verbatim and The International Journal of Lexicography.
He can compile word puzzles or general-knowledge quizzes. He can give talks on wordplay, as he has already done at literary festivals in Cheltenham, Swindon and Kent.
He can write an article - or a series of articles - about words, word games and wordplay.
If you send him review copies of jazz CDs and DVDs, he can review them on the jazz site of MusicWeb International, for which he is the Jazz Editor.
His email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Phrase books (from "Wordplay")
Phrase books are supposed to help people speak a foreign language. However, many phrase books mangle the language so disastrously that they are laughable rather than helpful.
The worst phrase book of all - The New Guide of the Conversation, in Portuguese and English (1855) - was full of such solecisms as "That pond it seems me many multiplied of fishes" and "This meat ist not too over do".
It is fun to read collections of these weird phrases but it is more satisfying to find them for yourself. My own collection includes a brochure which I got in Norway, which says "Here is a lot of paths for walkings in the mountains" and a booklet from Belgium stating that "The festival features seven shows of encounters orbiting the theme of light, colour, the moment". When I played a round of mini-golf in Belgium, the score-card warned me: "Those persons whose behaviour would become a nuisance the others, will be invited to leave the course, without reimburse of the prise of their tickets".
During the First World War, many phrase books were published to assist British soldiers with the unfamiliar French language. Frank Scudamore's "Parley Voo"!! - published in 1915 and subtitled "Practical French phrases and how to pronounce them, for daily use by British soldiers", includes the French words for "gripe draught", "stirrup leathers" and "a surcingle", reminding us that horses were widely used in this war. Scudamore also helps Tommies to sing The Marseillaise, transliterating it as:
Al-longs, ong-fong der lar Part-ree-e-yer,
Ler joor der glwore ait arr-ee-vay.
Hubert Dupont's The British-American Soldiers' English-French Conversation Guide (1919) includes the French equivalents for "American expressions and colloquialisms", such as:
buggy voiture or fiacre
dinkie très chic
dude un fat
a mug (foolish person) bête
I'm tickled Je suis très content
While these phrase books conjure up the spirit of an age, others show themselves up by being conspicuously out-of-date. As late as 1945, the English-French Dictionary and Phrase book was including such archaic items as fowling-piece, gas-pendant, inverted mantle, napery, pen-wipe and rush-light.
The preface of a text-book published in 1967 for foreign students of English claimed that "This edition has required some considerable revision to bring it quite up to date." That archaic use of "quite" may put you on your guard, as the word was surely not used quite like that in the 1960s.
The book describes British television (on which you can see "lively one-act plays, comic turns, and amusing episodes of all sorts"); our telephones ("I then clock the number, that is, I turn the dial with my finger for the telephone number of the place I want"); and our capital city ("Pardon me, sir, but am I right for the Marble Arch?").
The author tells us that "When I wish to visit one of my intimate friends, I do not take the trouble to inform him beforehand, but I go to his house, and ring the bell. Someone comes to the door: it is the maid." Then follows this conversation between the author and his friend:
Harry Hallo, John, is it you? (I am) delighted to see you....
John Would you care to come with me to the theatre next Wednesday?
Harry What's on?
John "Saint Joan".
Harry By whom (is it written)?
John By Bernard Shaw. They say it is his best play. It is a splendid piece.
Conversations are often the weakest part of phrase books. They tend to sound artificial - or even surreal. W. G. Hartog's Brush Up Your French, published by the Daily Mail in 1930, has the following conversation between a French couple about the weather:
M. D. What beastly weather!
Mme D. Yes, indeed. It has been like this now for four days. Wind, rain and hail. It's a long time since we have had such stormy weather.
M. D. What does the Meteorological Office say about it? Let's see the evening paper. By Jingo! It's not very reassuring. There is a deep depression over the Channel which shows a tendency to move southwards. Such a condition of barometric pressure will bring along north-easterly winds over the whole of Northern France. There will be frost at night, probably more severe than hitherto. The bad weather will continue.
Mme D. Well, we shall have to go out as little as possible.
M. D. It's disgusting. Mathieu and I had decided to go tomorrow to see the big Rugger match at Colombes.
Phrase books like this may make you doubt the wisdom of Sir Francis Galton, who wrote in The Art of Travel (1867): "Recollect to take with you vocabularies of all the tribes whom you are at all likely to visit".
GRIM FAIRY TALES (a sample of my ebook)
LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD
Once upon a time, many years ago, before you or I were born or even thought of, in a far-off land way beyond the (Get on with it! - Ed.), there lived a little girl with the most gleaming golden hair you could imagine. Because of her gleaming golden hair, the girl was called - yes, you guessed! - Little Red Riding Hood.
One day the girl's mother said to the little girl: "Your grandmother is sick." Little Red Riding Hood replied: "And you're pretty sad yourself!"
The mother swiped the little child across her gleaming golden head, and continued: "I want you to take this basket of goodies to your grandmother. The basket contains some cakes I have baked, a pot of homemade jam, plus Bill Oddie, Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor."
So the little girl set off to visit her grandmother. The path - as it always does in these stories - led through a deep, dark forest, where the branches got tangled in Little Red Riding Hood's hair. "I wish I had remembered to wear my little red riding hood," said Little Red Riding Hood. "It would have protected my coiffure from these horrid old trees." As she walked along, she comforted herself by singing sixteen choruses of I Will Survive.
Suddenly a wolf appeared out of the trees and spoke to her.
"Hullo, Goldilocks," he said.
"You've got the wrong girl," said Little Red Riding Hood. "My name is Little Red Riding Hood. And don't ask why I'm not wearing my little red riding hood. I left it..."
"...at home," said the wolf.
"How did you know that?" asked Little Red Riding Hood.
"Because I am an extremely sly, cunning old wolf," replied the sly, cunning old wolf.
"If you are so sly and cunning," said Little Red Riding Hood, "why did you mistake me for Goldilocks?"
"Nobody's perfect," replied the wolf. Quite honestly, Little Red Riding Hood was beginning to get on his tits, but he felt he had to be polite until he could get the chance to eat the little girl. He would have eaten her there and then but he was afraid of being noticed by a gang of woodcutters who were working in the forest, one of the best places for woodcutters to work.
"Where are you going, my pretty maid?" asked the wolf, who knew a cliché or two.
"I'm going to visit my grandmother with this basket of goodies," answered Little Red Riding Hood.
"Ah," said the wolf, "I understand - meals on wheels."
"No," said Little Red Riding Hood, "meals on heels."
"What a clever little girl you are," said the wolf, with gut-wrenching sycophancy.
"Get lost, sucker," replied Little Red Riding Hood - and she walked off through the forest towards Grandma's house.
Meanwhile the wolf stole one of the woodcutters' axes and used it to make a short cut through the forest, so that he reached Grandma's house before Little Red Riding Hood. He knocked on the door, rat-a-tat-tat. Then he dropped the rat and knocked on the door with his paw.
"Who's there?" asked Grandmother, who was lying in bed reading Heat magazine.
The wolf disguised his voice. "It's me, Little Red Riding Hood. I've brought you a basket of goodies."
"Goodie, goodie," said Grandmother. "Lift the latch and come in."
The wolf lifted the latch and the bomb - which Grandmother had planted under the latch - exploded and showered bits of wolf all over the forest.