Several books have
proved a great help to me in my searches. They include "Brewer's
Dictionary of Phrase and Fable"; "Brewer's 20th Century Phrase and
Fable"; "To Coin a Phrase"; "Dictionary of Idioms and their Origins";
"Dictionary of English Idioms". However, none, or even all of them
combined, have included anything like as many such sayings as I
located. Unique help was occasionally found in the "The 1811 Dictionary
of the Vulgar Tongue", a reproduction of which was produced in 1994.
Full details of these books & others are in the Appendix. One
further book requires thanks; this was lent to me by Dr Brandon Lush, a
colleague at Frenchay Hospital. It came from his family collection and
was published about 1880. Unfortunately no actual date is present in
the book, but the fly-leaf bears a family signature and the date
January 9th 1884. The book is "Ward & Lock's Standard
Etymological Dictionary of the English Language". It contained a number
of suggested origins that I found nowhere else. Finally, thanks to my
wife. She is German and, as a result, I have a passable knowledge of
German and a first class reference source in her knowledge of her own
language. These two attributes have occasionally been the key to
understanding an English phrase when other methods have failed. For
those of you who would like to know more about the origins, structures,
words and many other aspects of the English language then I thoroughly
recommend Bill Bryson's book "Mother Tongue. The English Language".
This is a wonderfully written, simple, amusing and very readable
account of many aspects of why we speak as we do. (Penguin
Books.1990.ISBN 0 14 014305 X).
Appendix, Sources used
Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.
1981. Cassel Publishers Ltd,
London. ISBN 0 0304 30706 8
Brewer's Twentieth Century Phrase and Fable. 1991. Cassel Publishers
Ltd, London. ISBN 0 0304 34059 6
To Coin a Phrase. Edwin Radford & Alan Smith. 1989. Papermac,
London. ISBN 0 333 49946 8
Why do we say that? Graham Donaldson & Sue Setterfield. 1986.
David & Charles, Newton Abbot & London. ISBN 0 7153
Dictionary of Idioms and their Origins. Linda & Roger Flavell.
1992. Kyle Cathie Ltd, London.
ISBN 1 85626 067 4
Dictionary of Popular Phrases. Nigel Rees. 1990. Bloomsbury Publishing
Ltd, London. ISBN 0 7475 0989 1
Fowler's Modern English Usage. 1991. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
IBSN 0 19 281389 7 Pbk
The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. 1993. Oxford
University Press, Oxford.
IBSN 0 19 283098 8 Pbk
Dictionary of English Idioms. 1991. Longman Group UK Ltd, London. ISBN
0 582 05863 5
The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. 1994. Senate, London. IBSN 1
85958 045 9
The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins. Robert
Hendrickson. 1987. F
Facts on File Publications, New York & Oxford. IBSN 0 8160 1012
The Sheffield Hallam University phrases web site.
The Cassell Dictionary of Slang. Jonathon Green. 1998. Cassell. London.
ISBN: "Available from the British Library".
Several large conventional dictionaries!