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The Old Dog And Duck, subtitled 'The Secret Meanings of Pub Names' aims to establish the reasons and histories behind typical pub names, which range from the largely explanatory (The George and Dragon) to the frankly bizarre ( The Bucket of Blood.)
The book is in hardback with a looseleaf cover.
There is a brief introduction where Jack describes his reasons for writing with the book before discussing the history of pubs and their varying purposes throughout history as well.
He then lists over 120 common or remarkable pub names and gives their explanations, separating the ones that are named after racehorses to a different section.
Amongst those that he gives context to are the following: The Aunt Sally, The Britannia, The Cat and Fiddle, The Drunken Duck, The King's Head, Molly Malone's, the Red Lion, The Turk's Head and The Seabiscuit Inn
It almost goes without saying that some of the stories are more interesting than others, but they are written in an entertaining and with a level of brevity that you cannot help but gain some enjoyment out of them as a book that you would dip in and out of, or as, dare I say, a 'toilet book.'
Each story is given either with a subtitle which gives an inkling for what the context of the story might be about or for the most unusual names it tells you where that pub is actually located as the story behind it is most likely linked to local history.
A lot of the stories are connected, perhaps unsurprisingly to wars and battles, but they are also connected to pub games, ancient civilizations' myths and legends, former trade, smuggling/shipwrecking, (the aforementioned Bucket of Blood.), royal fables, urban legends, ghost stories, Christianity, mining, public figures and societies amongst others.
At the back of the book he also provides some tips for further reading.
I have to be honest and say that this is a really entertaining book on a subject that I had not given much thought to, other than occasionally casually observing some of the more unusual pub names when I am out and about in a new place.
Jack has done a really good job of picking pubs with a wide variety of stories to tell from the true-life tributes to the ones with more fantastical elements to them. He writes in a humorous laid-back tone yet is obviously bursting with enthusiasm for his subject.
I also like the way that he has not just focussed on the more historical names, mentioning as well the origins of the JD Wetherspoon chain (which would you believe owe their ethos to a certain George Orwell.)
I do not think that you have to be a keen drinker or have a particularly zealous interest in pubs to gain some enjoyment from this book. Some of the tales are incredibly interesting, particularly those based on myths and legends (if you have a fiction-orientated mind like I have). As I have alluded to before, it is not likely to be one that you will sit down and devour several pages at a time, but is nice to have in the house as something to look at casually , particularly if you come across a name that you are wondering about when you are on your travels around the country whether it be common or more unusual (whilst, however, this does not pretend to be comprehensive.)
I suppose the main disadvantage of this book could be, however, that you could turn into an interminable pub bore, both in and out of your preferred watering hole!