From "chips" and "crumbs" to "spending a penny," The Queen's English
is your indispensable guide to surviving and thriving in the tricky byways of the English language, which has shown many a poor soul the way out for little more than twanging a vowel, splitting an infinitive or, crime of all crimes, saying dinner instead of tea. With The Queen's English
there's no need to become "flummoxed" ever again. This must-have A to Z guide uncovers the quintessential meanings behind more than 100 familiar words and phrases of the distinctively British lexicon, including:
- By hook or by crook (adv. phrase): It is good to find a phrase in common use that goes back as far as this one, and which appears (though not entirely proven) to link back to England's feudal past. In medieval times when the peasantry were not allowed to cut down trees, they were permitted nonetheless to gather firewood from loose or dead branches which could be obtained using "hook" (bill hook, a traditional cutting tool) or "crook," a staff with a curved end. No doubt the desperate peasant often exceeded the strict use of these tools, and so the sense is to achieve something by whatever means possible. The first recorded use of the phrase is from the fourteenth century.
- Gazump (vt.): Usually so proud of their reputation for playing fair, the English have a curious blind spot when it comes to buying and selling houses. To "gazump" is to raise the price of a piece of real estate after the sale has been agreed but before the contract is signed, usually on the pretext that the owner has received a higher offer elsewhere. The original buyer is then forced to raise their offer or the property goes to the higher bidder. This unethical but not illegal practice appeared first with the spelling "gazoomph" and was derived from an older and more