A Certain

A Certain "je Ne Sais Quoi": The Origin of Foreign Words Used in English

"English doesn't borrow from other languages. English follows other languages down dark alleys, knocks them over, and goes through their pockets for loose grammar."
James D. Nicoll

Organized alphabetically for easy reference, A Certain "Je Ne Sais Quoi" is an accessible lexicon of foreign words and phrases used in English, containing everything from aficionado (Spanish) to zeitgeist (German). Inside you'll find translations, definitions, origins, and a descriptive timeline of each item's evolution.

Entries include:
À la carte: from the card or of the menu (French)
Fiasco: complete failure (Italian)
Dungarees: thick cotton cloth/overalls (Hindi)
Diaspora: dispersion (Greek)
Smorgasbord: bread and butter (Swedish)
Cognoscenti: those who know (Italian)
Compos mentis: having mastery of one's mind; with it (Latin)
Attractively packaged with black and white illustrations, this whimsical yet authoritative book is a great gift for any etymologically fascinated individual. Use this book to reacquaint yourself with the English language, and you'll be compos mentis in no time.

Title:A Certain "je Ne Sais Quoi": The Origin of Foreign Words Used in English
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9781606520574
Format Type:

    A Certain "je Ne Sais Quoi": The Origin of Foreign Words Used in English Reviews

  • Sara

    This book could definitely have used some pronunciation helps along with the foreign words. Many of these phrases I've read in books but I've never heard pronounced. Now that I know what they mean, I ...

  • Danielle Freeman

    I love words. I believe Amazon's review best sums it up."English doesn't borrow from other languages. English follows other languages down dark alleys, knocks them over, and goes through their pockets...

  • Margie

    Lots of fun. Pronunciation hints would make it a perfect book, but it's very good without (besides, I should really learn how to pronounce Latin words). In addition to learning some fun tidbits, I've ...

  • Mark Hartzer

    Docked 1 star for the failure to include pronunciations. Actually more of a 3.5 star book. But lawyers love language and I'm no different. For example, I learned that the word "Geist" means ghost in G...

  • Vanessa

    This was an impulse grab off of the library shelf when I was looking for another book on language. It's a cute little collection of the meanings and etymologies of various common foreign words and phr...

  • Rich Brown

    A fun stocking-stuffer from my sister (a/k/a my only Goodreads.com 'friend'). Subject is fun, book is a nice addition to my language-library.... but holy cow, the typos. Typos in a book about words ar...

  • Jared Anderson

    I started this book a while ago, so I decided to finish it. It's a book I'd suggest to be read over a long period of time, looking at one or two entries a day. My brain kind of lost interest. I vacill...

  • Jane

    The only complaint this word nerd has about this book is a deplorable lack of pronunciation guides. It is otherwise a delightful romp through the often convoluted history of our colorful language....

  • Carmen

    A brief but informative book on foreign words used frequently in English....

  • Jina

    Overall, I found this book to be a bit boring. There were a ridiculous number of French and Latin phrases mentioned in this book, all of which have retained their original meaning and most of which I ...