Brewers Dictionary of Phrase and Fable
Everything your dictionary doesn’t tell you in an exploration of language, culture, myth and legend. It’s all in Brewer’s, now in its 19th edition and first published in 1870.
Its entries are wide-ranging, always informative, and often fun. It will tell you what and when was Plough Monday, how the pub sign Thee Tuns originated, what an egg corn is and how it all started with its being used instead of acorn and so reaches back into British folklore. Many of the entries do have roots in folklore, but others are much more recent.
Take for example the cave-dwelling Gruffalo, the frightening if timid creature with orange eyes and purple prickes. He first appeared in a picture book only in 1999. Then there is the Doomsday Clock, a device used by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists to measure how close humanity is to eventual destruction – this was invented only in 1947. If you are interested in words, you owe yourself a Brewer’s.