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Around the World in 80 Words

A Journey through the English Language

What makes a place so memorable that it survives forever in a word? In this captivating round-the-world tour, Paul Anthony Jones acts as your guide through the intriguing stories of how eighty places became immortalized in the English language. You’ll discover why the origins of turkeys, limericks, Brazil nuts, and Panama hats aren’t quite as straightforward as you might presume. If you’ve never heard of the tiny Czech mining town of Jáchymov—or Joachimsthal, as it was known until the late 1800s—you’re not alone, which makes its claim to fame as the origin of the word “dollar” all the more extraordinary. The story of how the Great Dane isn’t all that Danish makes the list, as does the Jordanian mountain whose name has become a byword for a tantalizing glimpse. We’ll also find out what the Philippines has given to your office inbox, what Alaska has given to your liquor cabinet, and how a speech given by a bumbling North Carolinian gave us a word for impenetrable nonsense.

Surprising, entertaining, and illuminating, this is essential reading for armchair travelers and word nerds. Our dictionaries are full of hidden histories, tales, and adventures from all over the world—if you know where to look.

288 pages | 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 | © 2018

History: General History

Language and Linguistics: General Language and Linguistics, Language History and Language Universals

Literature and Literary Criticism: Humor

Reference and Bibliography


"A fabulous and erudite survey of words inspired by place names. . . . Logophiles will have a ball."

Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Do read this book in the correct order—the author has gone to great lengths to make sense of his eccentric itinerary—but be mindful of the turkey. To read it all at once would be like swallowing the globe. Don’t skip the footnotes, which are like delicious side dishes, and whatever you do, don’t Google the nasty limerick by Aubrey Beardsley about St. Rose of Lima.”

Mary Norris | Times Literary Supplement

"[An] entertaining look at the lexicon. . . . [Jones] proves a most capable and agreeable guide: erudite and affable, always informative and often funny, he steers us with a clear, breezy, colloquial style through 80 destinations and the 80 principal words that he traces to their names. . . . Well researched and well guided, Jones’ tour instructs and delights."

Washington Independent Review of Books

Table of Contents


1. London, UK Kent Street ejectment
2. Vire, France vaudeville
3. Saverne, France zabernism
4. Spa, Belgium spa
5. Neander Valley, Germany Neanderthal
6. Amsterdam, Netherlands ampster
7. Copenhagen, Denmark Great Dane
8. Oslo, Norway Oslo breakfast
9. Ytterby, Sweden yttrium
10. Helsinki, Finland Finlandisation
11. Dubna, Russia dubnium
12. Balaklava, Ukraine balaclava
13. Istanbul, Turkey turkey
14. Nicosia, Cyprus copper
15. Abdera, Greece Abderian laughter
16. Sofia, Bulgaria buggery
17. Skopje, Macedonia macédoine
18. Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina Balkanisation
19. Zagreb, Croatia cravat
20. Kócs, Hungary coach
21. Raków, Poland Racovian
22. Jáchymov, Czech Republic dollar
23. Kahlenbergerdorf, Austria calembour
24. Magenta, Italy magenta
25. Jura Mountains, France/Switzerland Jurassic
26. Monte Carlo, Monaco Monte Carlo fallacy
27. Porto, Portugal port
28. Jerez de la Frontera, Spain sherry
29. Gibraltar Siege of Gibraltar
30. Tangier, Morocco tangerine
31. Algiers, Algeria Algerine
32. Canary Islands canary
33. Timbuktu, Mali Timbuktu
34. Conakry, Guinea guinea
35. Brazzaville, Congo conga
36. Stellenbosch, South Africa Stellenbosch
37. Mocha, Yemen mocha
38. Cairo, Egypt fustian
39. Bethlehem, Palestine bedlam
40. Mount Nebo, Jordan Pisgah
41. Samarra, Iraq appointment in Samarra
42. Qumis, Iran Parthian
43. Bukhara, Uzbekistan buckram
44. Kabul, Afghanistan Afghanistanism
45. Deolali, India doolally
46. Colombo, Sri Lanka serendipity
47. Samut Songkhram, Thailand Siamese twins
48. Phnom Penh, Cambodia gamboge
49. Shanghai, China Shanghaiing
50. Shangdu, China Xanadu
51. Kagoshima, Japan satsuma
52. Manila, Philippines Manila paper
53. Makassar, Indonesia antimacassar
54. Tasmania, Australia vandemonianism
55. Karitane, New Zealand Karitane
56. Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands bikini
57. Klondike, Canada Klondike
58. Admiralty Island, Alaska, USA hooch
59. Hollywood, California, USA Hollywood no
60. Jalap, Mexico jalapeño
61. San José, Costa Rica Panlibhonco
62. Panama City, Panama Panama hat
63. Lima, Peru Lima syndrome
64. Stanley, Falkland Islands Falklands effect
65. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Brazil nut
66. Cayenne, French Guiana cayenne pepper
67. Daiquirí, Cuba daiquiri cocktail
68. Hamilton, Bermuda Bermuda
69. Buncombe, North Carolina, USA bunkum
70. New York, USA tuxedo
71. Toronto, Canada Toronto blessing
72. Labrador, Canada Labrador
73. Geysir, Iceland geyser
74. Limerick, Ireland limerick
75. Dublin, Ireland donnybrook
76. Glasgow, UK Glasgow magistrate
77. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK Newcastle programme
78. Gotham, UK Gothamite
79. Coventry, UK send to Coventry
80. Porlock, UK person from Porlock

Select bibliography

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