Why Is This a Question?

The origins, oddities and mysteries of language

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Pub Date 18 Jan 2023 | Archive Date 24 Nov 2022

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A fascinating exploration of the nuts and bolts of human language.

Why don’t eleven and twelve end in –teen? The rest of our counting system sits in neatly arithmetical sets of ten, so why do these two rulebreakers seem so at odds to the numbers that follow them?  

Admittedly, that’s probably a question you’ve never thought to ask. But if you’re even remotely interested in the origins and oddities of language, it’s likely also a question you’re now intrigued to know the answer to. Nor is it the only question: take a moment to think about how our language operates and even more spring mind. Why do these letters look the way they do? Why are some uppercase and others lowercase? Why are these words in this order? How are you understanding what these seemingly arbitrary shapes and symbols mean, while doubtless hearing them read to you in a voice inside your head? And what is this question mark really doing at this end of this sentence?

Books explaining the origins of our language’s most intriguing words and phrases have long proved popular, but they often overlook the true nuts and bolts of our languages: the origins our alphabet and writing system; grammatical rules and conventions; the sound structure of language; and even how our brains and bodies interpret and communicate language itself. Why Is This A Question? redresses that balance, and explores many complex yet fascinating linguistic disciplines across its chapters, each exploring a question you’ve likely never thought to ask.   

Praise for The Cabinet of Calm 

‘I love this gifty and gorgeous compendium of beguiling words from which you can select to soothe the troubles that afflict you… [A] warm bath of linguistic remedies.’ Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller (Editor’s Choice: May 2020) 

‘Fantastic . . . Exactly the book that everybody needs.’ Simon Mayo 
A fascinating exploration of the nuts and bolts of human language.

Why don’t eleven and twelve end in –teen? The rest of our counting system sits in neatly arithmetical sets of ten, so why do these...

Advance Praise

‘This is an enlightening, delightful book that will make you question every sentence you’ve ever read or written.’ - Arthur der Weduwen, author of The Library

‘Enthralling, with a riveting “who knew?” moment on nearly every page.' - Caroline Taggart, author of Humble Pie and Cold Turkey

‘Deft, informative, and packed with fascinating morsels’ - Lev Parikian, author of Light Rains Sometimes Fall

‘This is an enlightening, delightful book that will make you question every sentence you’ve ever read or written.’ - Arthur der Weduwen, author of The Library

‘Enthralling, with a riveting “who...

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ISBN 9781783966646
PRICE A$29.99 (AUD)

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Featured Reviews

Why Is This a Question? by Paul Anthony Jones is a fun little book that gives a nice introduction to language and linguistics.

Even if most of the larger concepts are familiar to you this is still worth reading because of the examples used and the simple fact that most of us, unless we're professional linguists, have forgotten more than we remember. If you've never taken a course that would cover this material, this is an excellent and accessible introduction.

For me, the many examples and stories accompanying them made this a very enjoyable read. It was great to be reminded of things I had forgotten, and to learn the many new things I had missed, but it was definitely the superb use of narrative for some of the concepts took this from interesting to phenomenal.

Recommended for those wanting a better understanding of language as well as those who just enjoy words and how they came to be.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.

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❓❓Why Is This a Question by Paul Anthony Jones ❓❓

The book every word lover has been waiting for! Perfect for fans of Susie Dent, etymology, dictionaries, history, sociology, anthropology and just language in general.

Paul Anthony Jones gives us a glimpse into the closed world of the English language - providing us with educational snippets such as how the letter M is the Egyptian hieroglyph of water, and discussing the similarities (and differences) of the multitude of languages across the world.

While this book is readable, the amount of information it provides is extremely detailed with many literary terms peppered throughout. Therefore, this is not a light or quick read.

But it is worth the journey as I have learned more than I ever did in an English class :)

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I am so thankful for being granted an arc of Why Is This A Question? but I feel I am not smart enough to write a review worthy of just how good this book is. I know this sounds bad, but I learned SO MUCH from reading this book that I actually felt dumb while reading it as there were so many thoughts and concepts explored in this book that I NEVER once contemplated and I am almost 40 years old. Why did I never think of this things?!

Language is a funny thing in that it's just (or rather WAS) something that I just didn't think about. It was just something that I use every single day of my life without a second thought behind where it came from, why it sounds the way it does, why words look the way they do, etc.. The more I read this book the more questions I had! And this is a good thing!

Why Is This A Question? was such a compulsive read and I'm sitting here just thinking about how I have been living my entire life taking language for granted without knowing or caring about the significance and history of it. I have a brand new and utter fascination for language and am going to be re-reading this soon as this is a book that was bit overwhelming to take in (for me, personally), and I want to really get an in-depth grasp on everything I just read. This book does not feel like reading a textbook or like you're just having info dumped down your throat. It was a highly enjoyable read that constantly had me pausing and putting the book down and audibly saying "WOW" or "Why did I never think of this/that?"

Paul Anthony Jones did his homework and it shows. He knows SO MUCH about things that I never gave a single thought to but now can't stop thinking about. This is in my top 5 arcs that I have received this year and will be recommending to my friends and family. I also will absolutely be adding this to my library when the hard copy version is released.

5 out of 5 stars. Perfection. Thank you for making me a smarter, more well-informed individual who is now more intellectually curious about the things I once considered mundane. LOVED THIS..

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