WUOMFM

Here's one for the books

Nov 16, 2014

In Shakespeare's day, if you fell out of favor with someone, you could say that you "fell out of that person's books."

University of Michigan English professor Anne Curzan says the expression goes back to the 16th century. Shakespeare used it in "Romeo and Juliet."

"It's when Romeo kisses Juliet, and Juliet says, 'You kiss by the book.' It's possible to read that in a couple different ways," Curzan says. "One is that she's totally smitten, and he kisses in the best way possible, as what you would read about in a book.

"The other is the meaning of 'by the book' as routine – you do it in a very ordinary way, in which case there's a little critique in there."

You can also say someone "is in your good books or your bad books."

"Being in someone's good books goes back to 1608," Curzan explains. "Being in someone's bad books comes into the language later, in the 19th century, but you can find examples to this day.

How about the expression "on the books?"

"That's something I think feels pretty standard to many of us," Curzan says, "or 'closing the books' in business. But we have a metaphorical extension of that in the 19th century, where closing the books on something means we're going to stop discussing it."

We can also "take a page out of someone's book."

"As I started looking into this, I got really interested in the fact that we talk about people as having books in all these metaphorical ways," Curzan says. "So if you admire someone, and you want to do what they do, you say you want to take a leaf out of their book.

If you want to talk about or own opinion about something, you say, "In my book, it's this."

If you know someone really well, you might say you can "read them like a book."

We know we shouldn't "judge a book by its cover."

If someone's a real authority on something, we can say "they've written the book" on that.

And if you have been very bad, the judge may just "throw the book at you."