Book review: 500 Words You Should Know by Caroline Taggart

Do you dream of joining the literary cognoscenti or dazzling churlish chums with your vivacious badinage?

Friday, 3rd October 2014, 10:00 am
500 Words You Should Know
500 Words You Should Know

In a word – well, 500 words to be precise – here is the chance to enrich your vocabulary and use uncommon, familiar, or even just vaguely familiar, words in the right way and in the correct context.

Caroline Taggart, a writer, commentator, expert on language, grammar and ‘other clever stuff,’ is a self-confessed logophile (a lover of words) and is eager to help us all identify our weak spots and furnish them with a meticulous lexicon of impressive linguistic frivolities.

From words you sort of know, but aren’t confident enough to use, to weird and wonderful words you don’t, word doctor Taggart prescribes 500 of the trickiest, most misused and deliciously seductive words in the English language.

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From words that most people are almost sure they know, like decimate, caveat and nemesis, to words we all should really know, such as euphemism, diatribe and tautology, and just a few that many might want to know, like peripatetic, shibboleth and callipygian (literal meaning ‘having a nice bottom’), this is a magical box of linguistic tricks.

Arranged thematically, each word is dissected, with a brief explanation of etymology, historical and modern usage, allowing you to fully understand and effectively employ the word in its proper context.

For those interested in everything our eclectic language has to offer, and who are eager to celebrate its majesty and depth, this fount of knowledge will prevent you feeling discombobulated when confabulating with the literati.

And as Taggart makes clear in her introduction, her book is not intended to teach or preach but written only to help and in the hope that some words will stop you in your tracks and make you say ‘Ooh, that’s a nice word.’

Keeping logophilia alive and well has to be her last word…

(Michael O’Mara, hardback, £9.99)