Yesterday I had a hankering for a new book, as I often do. I found myself in the Reference/Language section, as I often do. As I was perusing, I found a book that looked like fun and up my alley. It’s I Didn’t Know That: From “Ants in the Pants” to “Wet Behind the Ears”–the Unusual Origins of the Things We Say, by Karlen Evins. It’s a really cute small book with brief explanations about expressions and phrases we all say, but seldom know the origin of. The truth is that many expressions have multiple claims of origin, and the author does a nice job of either mentioning the mutiple “sources”, or gives a reason why she chose a particular explanation. It really is a charming book when it seems as though nearly every time you read an entry you go “Oh, hmm. Nice. I didn’t know that.” Some of them are actually pretty funny.
Which brings me to my story.
I bought the book in the afternoon, so I didn’t get a chance to read it until I got on the train. Enjoying the book, I sort of zoned out of my surroundings, as I often do. Out of the corner of my eye (don’t ask which corner I’m referring to), I notice somebody reading over my shoulder. I looked up and saw a nice fellow, probably a few years older than me, looking slightly sheepish at having been caught sharing my book with me. He sort of blurted out that he couldn’t help it, but he found it really interesting. I assured him that it was completely fine by me, and I offered for him to actually hold the book so he could read it until he got off the train, with the thinking that I knew I was going to be on the train for another fifty minutes anyway, so I was safe. He declined and told me he preferred to not interrupt me, and that he would just look over my shoulder. It was a bit strange having somebody periodically laughing aloud from behind you, knowing he’s laughing at a book in your hands.
Towards the end of his ride, I saw him lean over and write down the name of the book and author, so he could pick up a copy. I felt some sort of pride that “my” book had so impressed a look-sneaker into actually going out and purchasing the book. Perhaps that feeling of pride should be reserved for the writer, but I shall leave that up to you to decide.