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Haggard Hawks and Paltry Poltroons: The Origins of English in Ten Words

Paul Anthony Jones

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linguistics, Prose: non-fiction, Humour

An intriguing etymological tour through British history, cataloguing the varied roots of the English language.

What do the following ten words all have in common - haggard, mews, codger, arouse, musket, poltroon, gorge, allure, pounce and turn-tail? All fairly familiar and straightforward words, after a little digging into their histories it turns out that all of them derive from falconry: the adjective haggard described an adult falcon captured from the wild; mews were the enclosures hawks were kept in whilst moulting; codger is thought to come from 'cadger', the member of a hunting party who carried the birds' perches, and so on.

This, essentially, is what Ten Words is all about - the book collects together hundreds of the most intriguing, surprising and little known histories and etymologies of a whole host of English words. From ancient place names to unusual languages, and obscure professions to military slang, this is a fascinating treasure trove of linguistic facts.

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