Unfortunate English: The Gloomy Truth Behind the Words You Use by Bill Brohaugh



[Click the cover below to check it out! If you don’t see a book cover below it’s probably ad-blocker settings]

[A simple cover for a simple book. I like the color scheme but amazon’s picture has the color too red and for some reason the image is off-center. 😐 ]

Unfortunate English uncovers older meanings of words that are out of joint with almost everyone’s sense of propriety – word histories that reveal the de-intensification of the disgusting, the generalization of the ribald, the mutation of the offensive, and occasionally the sensationalizing of the innocent.”



So, this book is just a little thing [can literally fit in a pocket if fidgeted], but it’s pretty interesting. Lots of friends have borrowed/asked to borrow it. Like the summary says, it’s just a listing of words and their original definitions and how they’ve changed over the years – usually to mean something not at all what related to what it used to be. Pretty awesome.

A downside to this, is the author’s ‘humor’ in the book. Alright, I get it – you like to try and make funny jokes because some of the words in question have hilarious backstories, but they make their humor attempts with every.single.word.

If it wasn’t that the end of the description of each word still gives more information about it, I wanted to start skipping the ends in order to avoid their humor attempts. It’s just… bad.

On little sidenotes, the little doodles and the general ‘dark’  color schemes and designs going on with the book are all pretty awesome. The author tries to make all the word definitions seem so heinous though… and a lot of them aren’t as bad as he makes it out to be.

Here’s a taste of one of my favorite word backgrounds:


“Pretty” originally meant ‘artful, crafty, or cunning’ in Old English, a meaning that is now obsolete. The world was not a compliment, having derived from a world that meant ‘wile or trick.’ Around 1400, pretty came to take such complimentary meanings as ‘admirable, fine, acceptable, honorable.’ And when it was applied in this sense to people, it was only for males. The more female-specific sense of ‘fair, attractive’ followed shortly behind, as did the more general sense, as in ‘a pretty sunset.’ The true adverbial use – meaning ‘rather’ – was in place by the mid -1500s.

There is something of an insult in the modern sense of pretty that it falls short of a full compliment. The person or sunset, or whatever, is not beautiful; it is almost that. This is the kind of partially hearted compliment that characterizes ovation. So beware the pretty one, that person may be seeking to con you.

Overall enjoyable and an educational read about etymology. Just a little too hard on the cornball jokes. [and if you get this book, lots and lots of people will ask you about it/pick it off your bookshelf to look at] 



I give Unfortunate English 3/5 Pretty Pretty Pretties





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