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Review: The Adventure of the Wordy Companion

These days it is a joy to get my hands on a Sherlockian reference work. In comparison to the ceaseless flow of pastiche, non-fiction books are rare and not as valued as they should be.

So I was pleased to get the opportunity to review The Adventure of the Wordy Companion: An A-Z Guide to Sherlockian Phraseology by Nicko Vaughan.


The Sherlock Holmes stories contain a lot of jargon or slang that was common to the period. It was second nature to the audience for whom Conan Doyle was writing but not so for us today.

There are phrases that simply don't mean much to us at all and other phrases that have different meanings and therefore need to be explained to modern readers. An obvious example of this being the expression "Queer Street" which could easily offend the contemporary reader unfamiliar with Victorian expressions.

Vaughan has gone through the canon and picked all of these words and phrases out -
providing an explanation for each. I naturally cannot vouch for all of them as that would take a lot of research but I am familiar with enough of them to attest to the accuracy of their definitions.

Does the average reader of Holmes need this book to appreciate the stories? The answer is no. I certainly managed back in the day without any issue. You can just skip over those phrases if you don't understand them and often the context in which they appear can give you a fair idea as to their meaning.

But if you are interested in the explanations behind these phrases it can only enhance your understanding of the stories. To those of a more scholarly persuasion I feel it can only be an asset to your library.


Written by Alistair Duncan Buy my books here
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