I absolutely loved The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities that I reviewed here, so when Alison Menzies got in touch to see if I’d like to feature Paul Anthony Jones’ latest book, The Cabinet of Calm: Soothing Words for Troubled Times, I was simply delighted to participate in the blog tour. I have my review of The Cabinet of Calm to share with you, but even better, I’m staying in with Paul Anthony Jones to find out more about it.
Staying in with Paul Anthony Jones
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Paul. Thank you so much for agreeing to stay in with me.
My pleasure, thanks for inviting me!
I am sure I know, but tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?
I’ve brought my new book, The Cabinet of Calm. I’ve been writing about the rarities and obscurities of the English language for nearly a decade now,but this is something a little different: it’s a collection of words that, were they to be a little better known today, could give us some much needed reassurance and peace of mind in difficult times. Each one has its own dedicated chapter, almost like a little essay, explaining not only its meaning and its history but what we can take or learn from it, and how knowing it can help or inspire us in unkind times.
That’s a perfect description of The Cabinet of Calm. I know it’s out today so congratulations. Tell me a little more.
I’m really proud of it, but it was a tough book to work on! I worked out quite early on in the research for it that when times are hard, people tend to turn to things like art and music to express themselves—they don’t tend to invent words just to make themselves feel better! So while there are countless stories and songs about dealing with things like the end of a relationship or of missing someone you dearly love, there isn’t a word in the dictionary that means something like ‘the knowledge that you’ll see someone you miss again in the future’, for example. So when I was first sketching this idea out, it became clear that I’d have to use a little bit of imagination and think a little bit outside of the straightforward dictionary definition of some the words I was collecting to show how comforting or inspiring they can be.
I think you managed that magnificently Paul.
For instance, there’s a really beautiful word, interfulgent, which literally describes something that shines through something that would otherwise block it out—like the sun through thick clouds, or through the leaves of a tree. Its dictionary definition is nice enough, but if you think of that word a little more figuratively, it suddenly becomes a lovely inspirational metaphor for the triumph of light over dark.So once I’d figured out that a more imaginative approach rather than a literal one might be needed, researching this book suddenly became a really fascinating linguistic treasure hunt, and I think there’s a really lovely collection of words here.
There most certainly is. Fast approaching sixty, I love opsimathy, for example.
So, what can we expect from an evening in with The Cabinet of Calm?
I’d like to think this book sits somewhere between an interesting language book, and a thoughtful, inspiring book, almost more akin to a self-help book.
A perfect description!
So on the one hand, if there’s something that you’re currently struggling through—like a loss, or a lack of motivation, for instance—then hopefully there’s a chapter here there might offer a little comfort or reassurance, or at least a little food for thought. On the other hand, if you’re just interested in the vagaries and weirdness of the English language, I’d like to think that there are enough intriguingly obscure words and etymological tales in there to entertain you along the way.
There’s a chapter that’s dedicated to breaking out of a boring routine, for instance, and it contains one of my favourite etymological stories: sphexishness is a word for mindless, robotic drudgery. So getting on the same train or driving the same route to work every morning could be described as sphexish. Sphex was the Greek word for ‘wasp’, and it’s now the name of a specific type of wasp that lays its eggs in little holes dug into the ground. In the 1800s, a French naturalist found that when the mother wasp was preparing the nest, she would always double check the nest hole to make sure it was safe absolutely every time she entered it—even if she had only been in there just a few seconds earlier. And it was this curious little wasp’s this instinctive, pre-programmed behaviour that inspired this bizarre word.
And that’s the beauty of The Cabinet of Calm I think Paul. There’s always a fascinating back story as well as a modern application in the entries.
What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?
I’ve brought one of my favourite songs, The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel. It was actually my mum’s favourite song too, and it’ll always remind me of her. Sadly both she and my dad passed away shortly before I started working on this book—which actually became one of the reasons why I wanted to write it. There are a few chapters in there that deal with grief and bereavement, and the words I chose for those were really influenced by what had happened personally before I even started work on the book.
I’m so sorry for your loss Paul. Reading your Introduction to The Cabinet of Calm brought a tear to my eye.
But there’s a lovely word in there, minding, that’s an old dialect word for a memento or a keepsake that reminds you of something or someone that you dearly miss. And this song will always be a lovely ‘minding’ of my mum and dad.
How wonderful. It will indeed. Music is so evocative. Thank you so much for staying in with me to chat about The Cabinet of Calm. I’ve loved hearing more about it. Before I share my review, let me tell readers a little bit more:
The Cabinet of Calm
Sometimes we all need a little reminder that it’s going to be okay… Open The Cabinet of Calm to discover a comforting word that’s equal to your troubles.
The Cabinet of Calm has been designed to be picked up whenever you need a moment of serenity. Just select the emotion listed that reflects whatever you’re feeling and you’ll be offered a matching linguistic remedy: fifty-one soothing words for troubled times.
From ‘melorism’ to ‘stound’, ‘carpe noctem’ to ‘opsimathy’, these kind words – alongside their definitions and their stories – will bring peace, comfort and delight, and provide fresh hope.
Written with a lightness of touch, The Cabinet of Calm shows us that we’re not alone. Like language, our emotions are universal: someone else has felt like this before and so there’s a word to help, whatever the challenge.
So much more than a book of words, The Cabinet of Calm will soothe your soul and ease your mind. It’s the perfect gift.
The Cabinet of Calm: Soothing Words for Troubled Times is published by Elliott and Thompson today, 14th May 2020, and is available for purchase through the links here. Don’t forget that your local bookshop might be able to deliver to you too!
My Review of The Cabinet of Calm
Fifty-one alphabetically ordered and unusual words.
Oh my goodness. The Cabinet of Calm was just the book I needed. It’s an absolute joy. Having read Paul Anthony Jones’ personal statement in the introduction I felt an immediate affinity with the author that enhanced my enjoyment because he convinced me that these words had come from his heart as much as from his intellect. I loved every moment of reading this collection and will be returning to it time and again.
The Cabinet of Calm is an exquisite book. I have to mention the hypnotic cover design as the gold lines give the impression of calm and order akin to the raked gravel in a traditional Japanese garden and enabling the reader to centre themselves before they have even opened the pages. This book can quite easily be used as a self-help supportive text as words and chapters for ‘when your love is unrequited’, ‘when you’re work-obsessed’ or for ‘when you’re missing your family’ for example, are exactly the kind of situations when we all need support. In today’s Covid 19 dominated society I genuinely believe The Cabinet of Calm could at least help a reader feel less isolated and even help those with life threatening depression. It’s reassuring to be able to define our feelings and emotions and at the very least The Cabinet of Calm is completely distracting.
However, that isn’t to say that The Cabinet of Calm is a ‘worthy’ or ‘hippyish’ text. Far from it. Grounded completely accessibly in the author’s personal viewpoint but with fabulous word etymology, history, geography, linguistics, literature and anecdotes The Cabinet of Calm appeals to and entertains scholars and lay people alike. Each word is afforded a thorough explanation cross-linked within the text but also to other aspects, so that dipping in to the book can lead to all kinds of literary adventures.
Most of the words in The Cabinet of Calm are new vocabulary for me. I definitely need to cultivate cultellation in my life and I loved finding that the sensation I often feel of not quite being clear in my thinking, for example, means I am probably suffering from stavaig!
The Cabinet of Calm is probably the most relevant book that there could be for the current state of the world. But ameliorating international events aside, Paul Anthony Jones has created the most fascinating, uplifting, educational and entertaining collection that would be perfect for any reader. I thought it was wonderful.
About Paul Anthony Jones
Paul has a Masters in Linguistics and is a language blogger from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. His obsession with words began with a child’s dictionary he received as a Christmas present when he was eight years old. As @HaggardHawks he has tweeted obscure words since 2013 and now has a social media following of over 75k, including the likes of JK Rowling, Robert Macfarlane, Susie Dent, Richard Osman, Greg Jenner, Ian McMillan, Rufus Sewell, Simon Mayo, Michael Rosen and Cerys Matthews.
Paul’s website HaggardHawks.com brings together the entire HH network including a blog, books, quizzes & games, the 500 Words YouTube series, Instagram gallery and newsletter.He regularly contributes to the media.
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