Paul Anthony Jones is an author and writer based in Newcastle upon Tyne. He has written seven non-fiction books: The British Isles: A Trivia Gazetteer (2012); word origins guide Haggard Hawks & Paltry Poltroons (2013) and its sequel Jedburgh Justice & Kentish Fire (2014); language fact book Word Drops (2015; 2016 USA); The Accidental Dictionary (2016; 2017 USA); linguistic yearbook The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities (2017; 2018 USA); and the forthcoming Around The World In 80 Words (2018). He has contributed articles to numerous publications, including The Independent, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, The Telegraph, BuzzFeed, and Mental Floss, writing primarily about the history of the English language and the origins of words. He also runs the popular language-based Twitter account @HaggardHawks—which now boasts over 50,000 followers. And in 2018 founded the new fact-based blog and podcast Yes or BS.
Paul was born in South Shields in 1983. He studied English language at the University of Newcastle from 2002–5, before going on to complete a Masters research degree in language and linguistics—specializing in place name origins, historical linguistics and and psycholinguistics—in 2009. His university research into the origins of local place names, both as an undergraduate and postgraduate, inspired his first book The British Isles: A Trivia Gazetteer (2012), which brought together the histories and claims to fame of more than 1,000 different towns and cities across Britain and Ireland.
Paul’s personal interest in etymology and the history of language inspired his second book, Haggard Hawks & Paltry Poltroons (2013). Named as one of The Guardian’s best language books of the year, Haggard Hawks was critically well received and was even profiled on Channel 4’s flagship words and numbers programme Countdown.
In December 2013, Paul set up the popular @HaggardHawks Twitter account, initially with the aim of merely publicizing his book online; when the account began attracting 100 new followers a week, @HaggardHawks soon took on a life of its own and quickly established itself as a separate project in its own right. After just six months, @HaggardHawks had amassed more than 4,000 followers, been named as one of the best language-based accounts on Twitter, and had been profiled on The Huffington Post. It added its 5,000th follower in August 2014; its 10,000th in June 2015; its 40,000th in August 2017; and its 50,000th in June 2018. It has since spawned its own language fact book, Word Drops, published in the UK by Elliott & Thompson (2015) and in the US by New Mexico Press (2016).
Word Drops was featured on Radio 4’s The World At One, with Paul contributing daily etymologies of political terms in the run-up to the 2015 general election, and was made Book of the Week by The Daily Telegraph’s Bookshop Corner in May 2015. In November 2015, it was nominated for a BBD&PA design award, shortlisted alongside the likes of the HarperCollins Atlas of the World and the 5th Edition of the Collins English Dictionary and Thesaurus.
Paul’s fifth book, The Accidental Dictionary, was published in October 2016. Telling the etymological stories behind 100 words whose meanings have changed beyond recognition in the course of their history, the book was featured in The Guardian, The Daily Mirror and The Telegraph, and promoted widely on radio, including interviews with Paul on BBC local radio, talkRADIO, and the BBC World Service.
A beautiful yearbook of forgotten words, The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities, was published in October 2017, alongside a US edition of The Accidental Dictionary from Pegasus Books. The sixth book in the Haggard Hawks canon, and Paul’s seventh overall, is a circumnavigatory guide to all those words we owe to place names: Around the World in 80 Words is due for publication in October 2018.
Alongside managing the @HaggardHawks Twitter feed and writing all of Haggard Hawks’ online material, Paul contributes articles to the Mental Floss website. In 2016, he wrote and presented a series of 50 language-based videos on the popular Haggard Hawks YouTube channel. More recently, he launched a brand new project, Yes or BS—a fact-based blog and podcast in which all is not quite as it seems.
His next written work is intended to be a biographical guide to English eponyms, while research is continuing on a long-awaited yearbook of 366 historical biographies. He is also working on his first fictional work.
Besides writing, Paul is also a classically trained pianist with a particular interest in the works of JS Bach. He lives in Jesmond in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Paul is represented by Andrew Lownie, of the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency.