Stories of Origin: True historical fact or colorful fiction?

My wife Jennifer recently shared an e-mail with me that I must admit I am uncertain as to whether they are historical fact or colorful (and entertaining) fiction.

The above paragraph is how I opened my July 3rd PI Window on Business Blog post, and I have to tell you that I would have never expected the level of reader response I received in a million years.  Less than a month after the article appeared it has been read/downloaded 11,628 times and still going strong.

As a writer of course, I am always delighted when I write an article or a book that engages, informs and yes even entertains.   While I always try to accomplish this with every post, gauging audience response is a near impossible task. This is why it is important to write about subject matter in which you have the greatest level of passion and expertise versus writing about that which you think is going to be popular.

As a radio show host however, when I saw the continuing interest in this topic I knew that I had to take action.

As a result, I am pleased to welcome to today’s PI Window on Business Show the author of “Shaggy Dogs and Black Sheep (The Origins of Even More Phrases We Use Everyday)” Albert Jack.

In what promises to be an interesting, entertaining and perhaps humorous 60 minutes, Jack will share his passion for and research of “the expressions that litter the English language.” 

The show airs live at 12:30 PM EST, and will also be recorded and made available on an On-Demand basis for your listening convenience.  Use the following link to access the live broadcast “Stories of Origin: True Historical Fact or Colorful Fiction” on the Blog Talk Radio Network.

Albert Jacks on BBC Radio 1

About Albert:

Albert Jack is a writer and historian and has become something of a publishing phenomenon since his first book Red Herrings and White Elephants, which explored the origins of well-known phrases in the English language, became a huge international bestseller (selling over 250,000 copies so far). The book was serialised by the Sunday Times for over a year and stayed in the top ten of the UK Sunday Times bestseller list for sixteen months.

His follow up book Shaggy Dogs and Black Sheep was also a best seller and has sold over 150,000 copies since publication in October 2005. It became Penguin Book’s Christmas bestseller. His hilarious third book, a study of Urban Legends called Phantom Hitchhikers is also a bestseller and was released in paperback in September 2007. In the same month Red Herrings and White Elephants was re-released for the first time in paperback and Albert has provided 30% more content for a revised and expanded version that is sure to hit the best-seller list once again.

Fascinated by discovering the truth behind the world’s great stories, Albert has become an expert in explaining the unexplained, which is great news for conversations and storytellers everywhere. He is now a veteran of hundreds of live television shows and thousands of radio appearances worldwide. His books have become bestsellers in Great Britain & Europe, America, Canada, South Africa, Australia and translated into many different languages.

In 2007, Albert Jack’s Loch Ness Monsters and Raining Frogs, a study of the world’s great mysteries from the Bermuda Triangle to the disappearance of Glen Miller. Crop Circles, Loch Ness Monster, UFO’s, Marylyn Monroe and the Mary Celeste have also come under investigation along with many more famous stories. Albert uncovers the sometimes surprising truth and his acerbic wit makes for an entertaining read. Loch Ness Monsters was be the third book Albert released in the autumn of 2007 and in March 2009 Random House published the same title in America.

In 2008 Penguin UK released the bestselling Pop Goes the Weasel, Albert’s book exploring the dark history and meaning of nursery rhymes that became an instant best-seller and offered the writer new contract to produce two brand new Albert Jack books for release in 2009 and 2010. The first of these, The Old Dog and Duck, Albert’s fascinating historic study of the origins of pub and hotel names is due in the shops on September 3rd 2009, closely followed by Penguin USA issuing stateside versions of Pop Goes the Weasel on 6th October and Shaggy Dogs and Black Sheep in March 2010,

The success of his books has a lot to do with Albert’s invention of what he calls the ‘ten minute read,’ enabling readers to open his books at any point and be fully entertained for ten minutes at a time before ‘going off to do something more productive with their time.’ Currently working on a children’s book, Albert Jack’s Bed Time Stories with illustrator Ama Page, the writer has plans for another ten hard backs that look set to continue his success for many years to come.

Albert’s Books:

The fun and fascinating follow-up to the international bestseller Red Herrings and White Elephants Why do people put their “skeletons in a closet,” “have a hunch,” “get the cold shoulder,” “get dressed up to the nines,” or “call a spade a spade?” These phrases are used every day, yet most people have little or no idea where most of them come from. In Black Sheep and Lame Ducks, Albert Jack takes readers on a journey through the curious- and often bizarre-origins of hundreds of their favorite idioms and expressions. For example, “wearing your heart on your sleeve” comes from the Middle Ages, when a lady would “give her heart” in the form of a handkerchief pinned to the sleeve of a knight who was about to go into battle. And calling someone the “black sheep in the family” refers to a thousands- year-old belief that a black lamb in a flock was unpopular because its fleece was undyeable and therefore less valuable. With Black Sheep and Lame Ducks, any language-lover can feel like a “Smart Aleck”-and also know exactly who that was.

The English language is crammed with colourful phrases and sayings that we use without thinking every day. It’s only when we’re asked who smart Alec or Holy Moly were, where feeling in the pink or once in a blue moon come from, or even what letting the cat out of the bag really means that we realize that there’s far more to English than we might have thought. Luckily enough, we now have Albert Jack. And rather than resting on his laurels after the enormous success of Red Herrings and White Elephants, he has continued his search around the world, exploring the origins of hundreds more phrases. The fascinating stories he has uncovered come from the rich traditions of the navy, army and law to confidence tricksters and highwaymen, from the practices of ancient civilizations to Music Hall and pubs. Determined to chase each shaggy dog story to the bitter end, his discoveries are even stranger and more memorable this time round. Shaggy Dogs and Black Sheep is a compulsively readable, highly enlightening look at the phrases we use all the time but rarely consider. From the skin of your teeth to the graveyard shift you’ll never speak (or even think) English in the same way again.

Media Bites:

Albert Jack talks Nursery Rhymes with Peter Gordon of 96.4 The Eagle – here


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  • Books Written by Jon Hansen

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