The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language

( 1 )

Overview


Do you know why…

…a mortgage is literally a death pledge? …why guns have girls’ names? …why salt is related to soldier?

You’re about to find out…

The Etymologicon (e-t?-‘mä-lä-ji-kän) is:

*Witty (wi-te\): Full of clever humor
*Erudite (er-?-dit): Showing knowledge
*Ribald (ri-b?ld): Crude, offensive

The Etymologicon is a completely unauthorized guide to the strange underpinnings of the English language. It ...

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The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language

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Overview


Do you know why…

…a mortgage is literally a death pledge? …why guns have girls’ names? …why salt is related to soldier?

You’re about to find out…

The Etymologicon (e-t?-‘mä-lä-ji-kän) is:

*Witty (wi-te\): Full of clever humor
*Erudite (er-?-dit): Showing knowledge
*Ribald (ri-b?ld): Crude, offensive

The Etymologicon is a completely unauthorized guide to the strange underpinnings of the English language. It explains: how you get from “gruntled” to “disgruntled”; why you are absolutely right to believe that your meager salary barely covers “money for salt”; how the biggest chain of coffee shops in the world (hint: Seattle) connects to whaling in Nantucket; and what precisely the Rolling Stones have to do with gardening.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

The publishers of Mark Forsyth's The Etymologicon credit it with being witty ("full of clever humor"), erudite ("showing knowledge") and ribald ("crude, offensive.") We too could pile up the positive adjectives, but prefer to simply delight in the book's unbridled, galloping tour of words and expressions that we toss to the winds daily. Even the asides of the blogger who calls himself the Inky Fool are delicious: Witness his description of how Thomas de Quincy kept himself supplied with drugs with the sales of his cautionary Confessions of an Opium Eater or his digressions on the multiple meanings of SPAM or how hosts gave unwelcome guests the cold shoulder. Editor's recommendation.

Kirkus Reviews
Inky Fool blogger Forsyth debuts with a breezy, amusing stroll through the uncommon histories of some common English words. The British author settled on a clever device to arrange his material--the end of each entry provides a link to the beginning of the next. Forsyth is interested (obsessed?) with words--how they began and how they've journeyed to where they now are. He shows us the connection between sausage and Botox, how an expression like point-blank wandered into everyday usage from archery, that poppycock has a scatological history, that Thomas Crapper manufactured a popular brand of toilet, and how Thomas Edison was the first to use bug as a term for something causing a device to malfunction. Although he uses an informal, even snarky, Internet-appropriate style ("Protestants and Catholics got into an awful spat," he writes of the Reformation), Forsyth carries more weight than his style sometimes suggests. He alludes periodically to Homer, Shakespeare and other literary heavyweights. He knows his history and geography; the style may be lighter-than-air, but the cargo is substantial. Some other goodies: The telephone popularized the word hello; Shell Oil was once in the seashell business; the Romans were the first to raise in derision the middle finger; bunk came from Buncombe, N.C.; Starbucks can be traced not just to Moby-Dick but to the Vikings' word for a Yorkshire stream. Occasionally, the author missteps. He says that Noah Webster was "an immensely boring man," a conclusion not supported by Joshua Kendall's gracefully told The Forgotten Founding Father (2011). Snack-food style blends with health-food substance for a most satisfying meal.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425260791
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/2/2012
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 169,107
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author


Mark Forsyth is a writer, journalist, proofreader, ghostwriter, and pedant. He was given a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary as a christening present and has never looked back. He is the creator of The Inky Fool, a blog about words, phrases, grammar, rhetoric, and prose.
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Table of Contents

Preface xv

A Turn-up for the Books 1

A Game of Chicken 3

Hydrogentlemanly 5

The Old and New Testicle 7

Parenthetical Codpieces 9

Suffering for my Underwear 12

Pans 13

Miltonic Meanders 15

Bloody Typical Semantic Shifts 18

The Proof of the Pudding 21

Susage Poison in your Face 23

Bows and Arrows and Cats 25

Black and White 28

Hat Cheque Point Charlie 31

Sex and Bread 33

Concealed Farts 37

Wool 39

Turkey 43

Insulting Foods 46

Folk Etymology 47

Butterflies of the World 50

Psychoanalysis and the Release of the Butterfly 52

The Villains of the Language 57

Two Executioners and a Doctor 58

Thomas Crapper 61

Mythical Acronyms 66

John the Baptist and the Sound of Music 69

Organic, Organised, Organs 71

Clipping 73

Buffalo 73

Antanaclasis 76

China 79

Coincidences and Patterns 80

Frankly, My Dear Frankfurter 83

Beastly Foreigners 84

Pejoratives 86

Ciao, Slave Driver 89

Robots 91

Terminators and Prejudice 93

Terminators and Equators 95

Equality in Ecuador 96

Bogeys 98

Bugbears and Bedbugs 100

Von Munchausen's Computer 103

SPAM (not spam) 105

Heroin 107

Morphing De Quincey and Shelley 108

Star-Spangled Drinking Songs 111

Torpedoes and Turtles 114

From Mount Vernon to Portobello Road with a Hangover 117

A Punch of Drinks 118

The Scampering Champion of the Champagne Campaign 121

Insulting Names 124

Peter Pan 127

Herbaceous Communication 130

Papa was a Saxum Volutum 133

Flying Peters 135

Venezuela and Venus and Venice 137

What News on the Rialto? 138

Magazines 140

Dick Snary 142

Autopeotomy 146

Water Closets for Russia 151

Fat Gunhilda 153

Queen Gunhilda and the Gadgets 155

Shell 156

In a Nutshell 158

The Iliad 159

The Human Body 162

The Five Fingers 163

Hoax Bodies 166

Bunking and Debunking 169

The Anglo-Saxon Mystery 171

The Sedge-Strewn Stream and Globalisation 176

Coffee 179

Cappuccino Monks 181

Called to the Bar 182

Ignorami 184

Fossil-less 188

The Frequentative Suffix 191

Pending 193

Worms and their Turnings 194

Mathematics 196

Stellafied and Oily Beavers 199

Beards 201

Islands 203

Sandwich Islands 208

The French Revolution in English Words 212

Romance Languages 213

Peripatetic Peoples 215

From Bohemia to California (via Primrose Hill) 217

California 220

The Hash Guys 223

Drugs 227

Pleasing Pslams 228

Biblical Errors 231

Salt 234

Halcyon Days 236

Dog Days 238

Cynical Dogs 240

Greek Education and Fastchild 241

Cybermen 243

Turning Trix 245

Amateur-Lovers 246

Dirty Money 248

Death Pledges 250

Wagering War 252

Strapped for Cash 253

Fast Bucks and Dead Ones 254

The Buck Steps here 257

Back to Howth Castle and Environs 259

Quizzes 261

The Cream of the Sources 277

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 19, 2012

    A joy to read!

    I would love to see this writer serialize a column that follows this book's path: start with a word and move forward through connections to history and culture and have each column be able to stand alone, but also connect cleanly to the column that preceded and follows. If you know people who enjoy language, consider this as a possible gift. The structure is entertaining as the writer takes us from word to word with smooth connections that startle. This book reignited my curiosity at the origins of words.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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