Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

by E. Cobham Brewer
     
 

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AUTHOR'S PREFACE

"What has this babbler to say?" is substantially the question of every one to whom a new book is offered. For ourselves, it will be difficult to furnish an answer in a sentence equally terse and explicit; yet our book has a definite scope and distinct speciality, which we will proceed to unfold. We call it a "Dictionary of Phrase and Fable,"

Overview

AUTHOR'S PREFACE

"What has this babbler to say?" is substantially the question of every one to whom a new book is offered. For ourselves, it will be difficult to furnish an answer in a sentence equally terse and explicit; yet our book has a definite scope and distinct speciality, which we will proceed to unfold. We call it a "Dictionary of Phrase and Fable," a title wide enough, no doubt, to satisfy a very lofty ambition, yet not sufficiently wide to describe the miscellaneous contents of this "alms-basket of words." As the Gargantuan course of studies included everything known to man and something more, so this sweep-net of a book encloses anything that comes within its reach. It draws in curious or novel etymologies, pseudonyms and popular titles, local traditions and literary blunders, biographical and historical trifles too insignificant to find a place in books of higher pretension, but not too worthless to be worth knowing. Sometimes a criticism is adventured, sometimes an exposition. Vulgar errors, of course, form an item; for the prescience of the ant in laying up a store for winter, the wisdom of the bee in the peculiar shape of its honey-comb, the disinterestedness of the jackal, the poisonous nature of the upas tree, and the striding of the Rhodian Colossos, if not of the nature of fable, are certainly "more strange than true."

In regard to etymology, it forms a staple of the book, which professes to give "the derivation, source, or origin of words that have a tale to tell." Thus, 'abandon is to "desert your colours;" church means "a circle," and not "God's house," as is usually given; prevaricate is "to go zig-zag," or "plough a crooked furrow;" scrupulous is to get a "stone in one's shoe;" sir is cousin german to the Greek "anax," a king; head, to the Greek "kephalé;" wig, to the Latin "pilucca;" tear and the French larme are mere varieties of the Greek "dakru." A large number of such word-studies have been admitted as walnuts for after dinner. Many others will serve to show how strangely even wise men will sometimes err when they wander in Dreamland: witness the etymology given by Dr. Ash of the word curmudgeon; Crabbe's etymology of the word doze, noticed under the article SLEEP in this Dictionary; Isidor's derivation of the word stipulate; Blackstone's deduction of parson from "persona;" Pliny's druid from "drus," an oak; Scaliger's etymology of satire; Boscherello's bigot; Ducange's Saracen; Bailey's Dunstable; the derivation given in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of the Isle of Wight; that of barbarous from "barba," a beard; of Shoreditch from "Jane Shore;" of Stony Arabia; Ptolemy's blunder about Arabia Felix (see Yemen); Lloyd's etymology of Ireland, "the land of ire;" and Lord Coke's Parliament (q.v.). Pleasant fables these, which have a right to stand in this museum of odds and ends.AUTHOR'S PREFACE

"What has this babbler to say?" is substantially the question of every one to whom a new book is offered. For ourselves, it will be difficult to furnish an answer in a sentence equally terse and explicit; yet our book has a definite scope and distinct speciality, which we will proceed to unfold. We call it a "Dictionary of Phrase and Fable," a title wide enough, no doubt, to satisfy a very lofty ambition, yet not sufficiently wide to describe the miscellaneous contents of this "alms-basket of words." As the Gargantuan course of studies included everything known to man and something more, so this sweep-net of a book encloses anything that comes within its reach. It draws in curious or novel etymologies, pseudonyms and popular titles, local traditions and literary blunders, biographical and historical trifles too insignificant to find a place in books of higher pretension, but not too worthless to be worth knowing. Sometimes a criticism is adventured, sometimes an exposition. Vulgar errors, of course, form an item; for the prescience of the ant in laying up a store for winter, the wisdom of the bee in the peculiar shape of its honey-comb, the disinterestedness of the jackal, the poisonous nature of the upas tree, and the striding of the Rhodian Colossos, if not of the nature of fable, are certainly "more strange than true."

In regard to etymology, it forms a staple of the book, which professes to give "the derivation, source, or origin of words that have a tale to tell." Thus, abandon is to "desert your colours;" church means "a circle," and not "God's house," as is usually given; prevaricate is "to go zig-zag," or "plough a crooked furrow;" scrupulous is to get a "stone in one's shoe;" sir is cousin german to the Greek "anax," a king; head, to the Greek "kephalé;" wig, to the Latin "pilucca;" tear and the French larme are mere varieties of the Greek "dakru." A large number of such word-studies have been admitted as walnuts for after dinner. Many others will serve to show how strangely even wise men will sometimes err when they wander in Dreamland

Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940015974867
Publisher:
OGB
Publication date:
01/29/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
290,985
File size:
3 MB

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