The 16th edition of this classic reference offers information about thousands of phrases and expressions which are not dealt with in conventional dictionaries. There are entries on people and events from mythology, the Bible, literature and history. Altogether, there are 18,500 main entries and thousands of sub-entries, and this edition contains 700 new entries, including contemporary phrases and expressions, and historic and fictional characters. Major new thematic entries deal with subjects such as hurricane names and mispronounced words. There is also enhanced coverage of present-day idiomatic expressions, including "the full monty", "all dressed up and nowhere to go", "back to the drawing board" and "couch potato".
An early highlight of this fully revised millennium edition of Brewer's is Terry Pratchett's short, sweetly ironic preface. It's entirely appropriate, given Brewer's has been the bread-and-butter of curious, self-educated working men and women for 130 years, and that this decade's great demotic writer should be invited to watch the dust settle on yet another deposit of curious knowledge. ("It's an education in itself, seeing [the Fab Four] take their place with old Roman senators and mythological fauna ... ").
Brewer's is famously, fabulously useless. There is not the remotest possibility that it contains anything you might actually be looking up at the time. In this, it closely resembles that great modern intellectual irritant, the World Wide Web. Where it bests the upstart Web is in its wit, its erudition and in its disposability. Mind you, frustrated users should wield the new edition with caution. Adrian Room has introduced French jargon, inkhorn literary terms and many more historical and fictional characters to the familiar "alms-basket of words".