Odd Book Out Review: A Certain "Je Ne Sais Quoi" by Chloe Rhodes

"Odd Book Out" reviews will feature books that are neither romance nor young adult fiction but instead will [most likely] be reference type non-fiction books that we nonetheless think interesting.

chloerhodes Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: Readers Digest
Language: English
Source of my copy: from FSB Media
Carpe Diem and Become a Word Connoisseur!
English is filled with a smorgasbord of foreign words and phrases that have entered our language from many sources -- some from as far back as the Celts. A Certain "Je Ne Sais Quoi," which tells the story of how many of these expressions came to be commonly used in English, will both amaze and amuse language lovers everywhere. You'll be fascinated to learn, for instance, that . . .
* ketchup began life as a spicy pickled fish sauce called koechiap in seventeenth-century China?
* honcho came from the Japanese word hancho, which means squad chief? The word was brought to the United States sometime during the 1940s by soldiers who had served in Japan.
* dungarees comes from the Hindi word dungri, the thick cotton cloth used for sails and tents in India?
Organized alphabetically for easy reference, A Certain "Je Ne Sais Quoi" tells the little-known origin of some of these thousands of foreign words and phrases -- from aficionado to zeitgeist. Inside, you'll find translations, definitions, origins, and lively descriptions of each item's evolution into our everyday discourse. With this whimsical little book, you'll be ready to throw out a foreign word or phrase at your next party, lending your conversation with, well, a certain je ne sais quoi.

Michelle's Review:
My interest for this book was piqued one afternoon while I was browsing the books they had for sale in Costco. I didn't buy it then (though I thought about it) but when I found out it was being offered for review, I jumped at the chance. I've always been interested in language origin so this book was an enjoyable read and I learned a lot. A few of my favorites are:
robot - drudgery (Czech), honcho - squad leader (Japanese)
cushy - easy/pleasant (Urdu), khaki - dusty (Hindi), confetti - sweets (Italian)

The book is filled with interesting stories (both humorous and strange) of the origin of a number of foreign words and phrases used in the English language written with just the right amount of detail. I liked that the words were organized in alphabetical order with the literal meaning of the word (i.e., paparazzi - mosquito [Italian]). Each of the words were also used in a sentence ("Tamara never used the front entrance to department stores; the paparazzi made window shopping impossible"). I also liked the small playful illustrations that came with some of the words. However, I do wish there's a sort of index at the back of the book with all the words listed and the page number of where to find it--that would've made it a lot easier to find a specific word without doing a lot of flipping. But other than that, A Certain "Je Ne Sais Quoi" is good little reference book with just enough information presented in a fun way for it to be interesting yet very easy to read. 4 out of 5 stars


  1. Oddly, I really want to read this one. :)

    Thanks for the review.

  2. I love books like this and they come in handy. I never know how to spell things like je ne sai quoi, and always have a heck of time finding them when I need them.

  3. Vaguely interesting...

    Bill ;-)

    Hope you'll check out my book giveaway:

  4. Glad you enjoyed learning more about word origins! I read this one as well and while some were of no surprise, there were quite a few that were! Hasta la vista...and happy reading! ^_^

  5. I love books like this...I definitely think I'll be checking this one out soon. Thanks for sharing!! :-)


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