Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Logomania: Phate, Phortune and Phrases

Ellen Whyte's lexicon of common phrases was released without much fanfare in 2009. The textbook-like appearance fitted its premise, but belies the interesting and sometimes humorous turn of phrase in the descriptions and origins of commonly used English phrases and examples of their usage.

The release of what can be considered the next book in the Logomania series presents another kind of conundrum. May I present:

Logomania: Fate & Fortune
Logomania: Fate & Fortune. Logomanias coming soon: Load Up
on Latin
, Pardon My French and Crouching Adverb, Hidden Pronoun

Has the well-known writer and even more well-known cat lady and columnist waded into the choppy waters of fortune telling and feng shui famously patrolled by the likes of Lillian Too and Joey Yap?

No, not quite. Though it's a lovely design.

Logomania: Fate & Fortune is a welcome add-on to your treasure chest of more common phrases, organised and tied to elements of and related to Chinese and Western zodiacs. You don't just learn the phrases, but their origins as well. Some of the stories on how a saying or idiom came about are surprising. And it's an ongoing process. With new inventions and stuff entering our ever-growing lexicon, new phrases, sayings and words will invariably pop up.

What I dub "Logomania II" is split into two parts. Part One deals with zodiac signs, with Western zodiac symbols filling in for signs covered by the Chinese zodiac. Bonuses include animal adjectives and proper names of male and female adults and babies of the featured beasts, living or legendary. Because you never know.

Part Two is for phrases that incorporate general terms, astrological symbols and other elements of the "fate and fortune" theme that don't fit into the first half. Tarot symbols such as the sun, moon and stars, as well as wealth, saints, ghosts and devils, hearts and so on.

I'll admit: it's not a complete collection and there are, unfortunately, some repeated words and phrases that involve animals (such as chickens and dogs) from the previous book. it's still a handy guide for the right prose-enriching phrase in you next English composition, thesis or novel.

Let me have a crack at some passages, using some of the phrases in (and, maybe, not in) the book. They're examples, so don't get all mad like hatters, okay?

Look at that toad of a man, acting like the cock of the walk, bandying about his cock-and-bull story about how the march will threaten national stability. There was talk of a counter march, but in the end, he and his ilk chickened out.

It's all politics, really. He probably earns chicken feed in his day job, so he's trying to better his pecking order in the party hierarchy. Who knows? Maybe someday he might even rule the roost.

Nevertheless, he shouldn't start counting his chickens before they hatch. The ruling government has all but trashed our institutions like a bull in a china shop. It's only a matter or time before the chickens come home to roost.

The opposition? Don't count on them, either. Right now they're running around like headless chickens over church raids, court cases and whatever spanner the ruling party throws into their works.

Not convinced? Here's another. I think I'm having too much fun with this.

If I said we're all leading a dog's life these days, I'm not talking cock. Thanks to looming economical crises, the dog eat dog nature of the corporate sector has become hotter than Hades.

Nowadays I don't see the point to dress up like a dog's dinner to wedding dinners. Who cares if I end up in the doghouse with the folks over that?

The government is doing all it can, despite the financial malfeasance of a number of bad apples. But we're no tiger economy, and additional stimulus packages are about as effective as hair of the dog.

The armchair critics ranting in online portals over how this country is going to the dogs aren't helping much. Kleptocrats continue to steal, crime rates crawl ever upwards and racial and religious tensions simmer on as the tail wags the dog in the arena of discourse.

The dogs bark but the caravan moves on. The age of Aquarius seems a distant wish. Still, one hopes. Every dog has its day, after all.

So the tone is a little too socio-political, but the theme is much easier to riff on. I hope I didn't make English an even less appealing language in our hot-as-Hades socio-political climate.

So, have I sold you on this book yet? And may I suggest you pick up the other book too while you're at it?

Ellen Whyte was given her first dictionary in school when she was seven. Designed for kids, it was limited to defining words in a dull way. At about the same time, somebody gave her an encyclopaedia on animals. It had a panda on the cover and was filled with information about the biggest, smallest, fastest, toughest and weirdest animals on the planet. The dictionary was ignored while the encyclopaedia was read until it fell apart.

It wasn't for some years before she discovered that language can be as interesting as animal encyclopaedias. She now has a bookshelf bulging with dictionaries, thesauri, encyclopaedias and other reference books, and is completely hooked on learning the stories that lie behind the words and phrases we use every day.

She is also the author of Katz Tales: Living Under the Velvet Paw and Logomania: Where Common Phrases Come From and How to Use Them.

Logomania: Fate & Fortune will be available at all good bookstores.

Logomania: Where Common Phrases Come From and How to Use Them
Ellen Whyte
MPH Group Publishing
314 pages
ISBN: 978-967-5222-47-4

Buy from Kinokuniya | MPHOnline.com

Logomania: Fate & Fortune
Ellen Whyte
MPH Group Publishing
320 pages
ISBN: 978-967-5997-62-4

Buy from Kinokuniya | MPHOnline.com


  1. Thanks Alan! A lovely review. I shall Tweet and Facebook about this...

  2. You're welcome, Ellen.

    Good weekend!


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