Phrases and Names: Please read this product description carefully. Look at the preview. It’s probably not what you’d expect it to be based on the title.
Can we just take a moment to reflect on what an amazingly pulpy name Trench Johnson is? It sounds as if he should be fighting crime alongside Doc Savage or the Shadow, or getting beaten up in a rain-slick alleyway by Mike Hammer or Sam Spade. I can’t find anything on him other than the fact that he wrote this book, and was apparently an Englishman that lived during the Victorian era. There are no other titles credited to his name. We are free, then, to imagine him to be whatever manner of intrepid adventurer, hardboiled detective, or steampunk occultist we choose. It only adds more joy to the madness that is this hefty volume.
I overlooked this book twice before stopping to examine it. The first time I was looking for character naming resources, which this decidedly isn’t. The second time I was looking for the origin of certain expressions and aphorisms, checking to see if they had long-forgotten racist overtones1. What I found instead was a treasure trove of completely random knowledge, presented in bite-sized entries. For example, here are three consecutive entries from the letter “P”:
Perfectionists. An American sect of religionists who, relying on the gift of the Spirit, dispense with civil laws so far as their own community is concerned.
Peripatetics. The school of philosophy founded by Aristotle, who taught his disciples in the colonnade or covered walk (styled the peripatos, from peripatem, to walk) in the garden of Lyceus at Athens.
Pernambuco. Expresses the Spanish for “the mouth of hell,” so called on account of the violent surf, which is such an impediment to the safe navigation of the mouth of its chief river, the San Francisco.
What inspires a person to put together a book like this? Why could I not put it down once I stopped reading it? Most importantly, why do I suddenly have weird ideas for characters, adventures, and assorted bits and bobs of worldbuilding?
This is the kind of book Phrases and Names is. Drink it in. Draw inspiration from it. I hope you find it as useful and entertaining as I do.