Occasionally non-fiction books seem to take off and become talked about even though you are not sure why. A few years ago it felt like it was all about Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep, before that it was Steve Peter’s Chimp Paradox, and much further back was Eat, Shoots and Leaves (I embarrassingly spent most of Liz Truss’s six weeks as Prime Minister thinking she should have stuck to books – I now realise the Author is Lynne Truss).

Maybe for those books the PR was magnificent? Maybe they picked up on some zeitgeist? But they seemed unlikely hits which suddenly everyone was reading. Why is This a Question feels a little like this. There is nothing you NEED to know from this book. It won’t enhance your career (unless you are an English teacher) or make you a better person. In fact, all it might do is make you are popular on your quiz team but still there is something incredibly compelling about it. Simply learning, dissecting and understanding more about our language, why we talk, write and communicate in the way we do, leaves you feeling more accomplished, competent and fulfilled.

Six favourite facts from the book:

  • E is the most frequently used vowel and our most frequently used letter overall.
  • J is the most recent acquisition to the English alphabet
  • Upper- and Lower-case letters are so named because of their position in the printworks. Lowercase were used more often so sat on the lower tier of trays, closer to the printer.
  • The dot above the i is called a tittle.
  • The alphabet we use today is a version of the alphabet used by the Romans to suit Latin more than 2000 years ago – however English is not a Latin-based language, it is a Germanic one so there are discrepancies between the sounds of Old English and the Latin letters.
  • We think of Hangry as a modern word but it was first used in 1913 by the author Arthur Ransome to describe an elephant.

The book is beautifully written and just packed full of little lightbulb moments. It opens you up to questioning more and feeling full of satisfaction that you have learnt something new.

You can follow the author on twitter: @HaggardHawks and buy the book on his website