Watch Your Tongue

Mark’s latest book about language was published by Simon & Schuster Canada in 2018. He launched the book at the Knowlton Literary Festival in Quebec, and then spoke about it at events in Montreal, Pointe Claire and Burlington.

Here’s how Simon & Schuster describes the book:

“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.”

The book was featured in an advance article in the New York Post that ran 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 KCRW (the NPR affiliate in Los Angeles) and on fifteen CBC Radio stations across the country. On the blog, the book was described as “the perfect gift for the English or History teacher in your life.”