Humour and Language

Richard Anthony Baker

Many A True Word

The joy of English

Headline (October 2013)

Written by the author of the stylebook for BBC Radio News, this former BBC producer brings his prodigious wit and learning to the way we use the English language. Should we worry about apostrophes? What are the 100 most used words? Which words are most commonly misspelt; or derived from French, German and Spanish; or are banned at the Daily Telegraph? What are the secrets of becoming a cryptic crossword genius or a master Scrabble player? Richard Baker presents these and many other weighty linguistic matters with the lightness of a fine soufflé.

Albert Jack

They Laughed at Galileo

How The Great Inventors Proved Their Critics Wrong

Constable (May 2015)

Jack They Laughed at GalileoFrom the wireless to the computer, and from hula hoops to interplanetary travel, inventions and discoveries have changed our lifestyles in ways that would have astounded our ancestors. Each of them was originally developed by visionaries who dreamt of the seemingly impossible, but who were opposed by an array of experts publicly declaring that ‘It cannot be done.’

Well, yes it could, and here’s the story of how those dreamers overcame the odds against them.

Albert Jack

It’s A Wonderful Word

The real origins of our favourite words, from anorak to zombie

Random House Books ( 2011)

Jack It's A Wonderful WordWhat have spondulics to do with spines or lawyers with avocados?  In It’s A Wonderful Word, Albert Jack collects over 500 of the strangest, funniest-sounding and most downright delightful words in the English language, and traces them back to their often puzzling origins.


Albert Jack

Phantom Hitchhikers and Decoy Ducks

The strange stories behind urban legends

Penguin ( 2008)

Jack Phantom HitchhikersHave you heard the one about Winston Churchill being a druid?  Coca-Cola owning Santa Claus?  Alligators in Sewers?  Or the Beast of Bodmin Moor?  We all love a good story.  But have you ever wondered where the urban legends, conspiracy theories and old wives’ tales we hear every day really come from?  And whether any of them are actually true?

Albert Jack

Shaggy Dogs & Black Sheep

The origins of even more phrases we use every day

Penguin ( 2005)

Jack Shaggy Dogs and Black SheepWhere is the last chance saloon?  Who were Gordon Bennett and Smart Aleck?  Why do we have a hunch, get the cold shoulder, laugh like a drain, or get dressed up to the nines?  We use these phrases every day and yet have little or no idea where most of them come from.  Here Albert Jack takes us on a fascinating journey through the curious and often bizarre origins of hundreds of our favourite words and expressions.

Nicholas James

Pipe Dreams

Secret Diaries of a Neighbourhood Plumber

Ad Lib Publishers Ltd (March 2023)

Pipe DreamsEver wondered what really goes on behind closed doors?

Over more than twenty years working as a plumber, Nick has shared thousands of mugs of tea with hundreds of fascinating people. Here he gives his plumber’s-eye view of society in a series of entertaining, amusing and outrageous beneath-the-kitchen-sink dramas.

While fixing pipes, Nick was also looking for characters to write about. In his toolbox, in addition to spanners, he had a notebook, which wasn’t just for jotting down measurements. And ‘the secret plumber’ has some great stories to tell, about people who might just be your friends, family or neighbours.

There’s the frankly terrifying high-court judge, whose wife calls the shots; the divorcing woman, using him to help her build a rather bizarre botox business; and all the wonderful people he meets when his number is posted on Grindr as an LGBTQ+-friendly plumber.

This book is Tales of the Unexpected – in overalls. It shows London as it really is: one of the most diverse places on the planet, ranging from downright dangerous to preposterously posh. To Nick, London is a melting pot, filled with an extraordinary variety of fascinating people, who have one thing in common – they all need a plumber!

James Moore and Paul Nero

Blagging It

How to get almost everything on the cheap

Michael O’Mara Books ( 2004)

Jealous of friends who always get something for nothing or into events they’ve no right to be at?  From shopping to sex, in the office or out on the town, this is the book for would-be blaggers, bent on having a bigger slice of just about everything.

Rochelle Morton

My 1,000 Americans

A year-long odyssey through the personals

Three Rivers Press ( 2001)

Rochelle Morton’s blow-by-blow account of dating through the personal columns contains the most eye-opening and hilarious despatches from the singles front since Bridget Jones cracked open her diary.