Honk, Conk and Squacket

Fabulous and Forgotten Sound-words from a Vanished Age of Listening

Compiled by I. M. Rawes. B-format paperback (129mm x 198mm), 176 pages, illustrated throughout. ISBN 978-1-5272-0160-6.


Are you the audile sort who can tell the difference between a bottle-bump and a gabbleratchet? Does your dog ouff, baff, channer, snook or whink?? Have you been kept awake by a box of toys from a randivoose, schlemozzle, callithump, or even a bobbery-pack? Or has a dose of the old gin-and-fog made you all reasty-cropped and gurragh like a hinchinarfer?

The answers are in the pages of Honk, Conk and Squacket, a unique collection of over 1,500 forgotten and obscure sound-words found in Victorian county dialect surveys and a host of other old sources from across the English-speaking world. There are strange and noisy apparitions from folklore, sonorous rural names for animals and their calls, bizarre instruments and inventions, and the slangs of thieves and the music hall. Taken together, they make the case that people in the past paid more attention to the sounds around them than we do today.

Honk, Conk and Squacket also has a gazetteer, showing which words came from which places, and an extensive bibliography. It's a surprising and absorbing read, and makes an ideal gift for word-collectors, local historians, anyone who works with sound, and all those who simply love to listen.

As well as months of research at the British Library, I've also spent a lot of time trying to make the book an appealing object. Years ago I worked as a book typesetter and with Honk, Conk and Squacket I've tried to recreate the look of an old illustrated dictionary.

End paper and title page of Honk Conk and Squacket

The latest batch from the presses of Imprint Academic in Exeter is printed on Bookwove Cream and has attractive marbled end-papers.

Appearances on the radio

You can hear me hold forth excitedly about the book to John Humphreys on Radio 4's Today program from the 4th of November 2016 via the BBC's website.

I went back to Broadcasting House on the evening of Wednesday the 9th of November to appear on the Mark Forest Show, which goes out to a lot of local BBC radio stations. You can listen to the broadcast here.

On the 8th of December I travelled to the studios in Salford to appear on Radio 3's The Verb, hosted by poet and presenter Ian McMillan.