Watch Your Tongue

Watch Your Tongue: What Our Everyday Sayings and Idioms Figuratively Mean 

Simon & Schuster Canada, 2018

“Have you ever wondered where our everyday language comes from? Or the history behind our vocabulary? You don’t have to wonder anymore … This book is the perfect gift for the English or History teacher in your life.”

“Abley’s writing style suits the topic immensely.”

Simon & Schuster commissioned the book, and described it in these terms:

“Do you ever wonder why you shouldn’t have a cow but you should seize a bull by its horns? Who has the better reputation in language—cats or dogs? Do you sometimes feel that our speech is all smoke and mirrors or that our expressions simply make no sense?

“In Watch Your Tongue, award-winning author Mark Abley explores the phrases, idioms, and clichés of our everyday language. With wit and subtle wisdom, he unravels the mysteries of these expressions, illuminating the history, tradition and stories behind everything we say. Pulling examples from Shakespeare’s plays to sports team names, ancient Rome to Twitter, Abley shares samples and anecdotes of the eccentric ways that we play with, parse, and pattern language.

“Why do so many companies use fruit for their brand names? What do politicians mean when they say they’re going to “drain the swamp”? Why does English use chickens to signify cowardice? Abley dives into the history and psychology behind these examples and countless others, unpacking their significance (and sheer absurdity) to show how our language developed, where it is headed, and what we can learn about ourselves from it.

“Whimsically illustrated, easily browsable, and full of catchy sidebars, Watch Your Tongue celebrates how we amuse ourselves with words and what our sayings reveal about the way we see the world.”

“Steal your thunder,” “blonde bombshell,” “Bronx cheer” and five other idioms from Watch Your Tongue were featured in the New York Post on Oct. 13, 2018. The Globe and Mail devoted a full page to the book on Nov. 3, 2018. Mark was interviewed about it on National Public Radio in the US and on fifteen CBC Radio stations across Canada. And on the blog, the book was described as “the perfect gift for the English or History teacher in your life.”