What's in a Word?: Fascinating Stories of More Than 350 Everyday Words and Phrases

Overview

Once upon a time…

Tying the knot actually involved tying a knot-not saying vows. Meanwhile, a thinking cap wasn’t just a cute idea for schoolchildren, but an actual hat worn by scholars in the Middle Ages. Oh, and when you make no bones about something, you should consider yourself lucky you aren’t choking on a chicken foot.

What’s in a Word? Answers the question it poses, more than three hundred times over. You’ll learn which side of the bed ...

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What's in a Word: Fascinating Stories of More Than 350 Everyday Words and Phrases

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Overview

Once upon a time…

Tying the knot actually involved tying a knot-not saying vows. Meanwhile, a thinking cap wasn’t just a cute idea for schoolchildren, but an actual hat worn by scholars in the Middle Ages. Oh, and when you make no bones about something, you should consider yourself lucky you aren’t choking on a chicken foot.

What’s in a Word? Answers the question it poses, more than three hundred times over. You’ll learn which side of the bed is the wrong side, and why the word “nickname” is simply the product of slurred speech. Webb Garrison’s etymological journey through the origins of words and phrases, both common and obscure, is sure to fascinate wordsmiths of every stripe.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595553003
  • Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/16/2010
  • Pages: 248
  • Sales rank: 1,211,414
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Webb Garrison, formerly associate dean of Emory University and president of McKendree College,wrote more than 55 books, including Civil War Curiosities and Civil War Triviaand Fact Book. Before his deathin 2000, Garrison lived in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina.
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 6, 2011

    Interesting book on etymology of English words

    Are you one of those who subscribes to AWAD and The Hot Word daily newsletter or RSS feeds? Are you fascinated by words? Have you ever wondered how different words come together to mean something or how in the hands of a supreme author mere letters on paper acquire such power? Have you ever wondered where the words and phrases you use come from? More importantly have you ever pondered on why the words mean what they do - to get a little academic - why is it that a particular signifier, a word or a phrase, signifies what it does?

    If you are fascinated by language or if trivia interests you, Webb Garrison's What's in a Word? Fascinating Stories of More Than 350 Everyday Words and Phrases is a book you need to read. Webb Garrison in his little book tells us the etymology of every day words. What's in a Word tells us the meaning and origin stories behind 350 words and phrases in the English language. These are words and phrases that most of us use quite commonly, but have no idea about where they came from.

    Webb Garrison's book avoids being "academic" - it is not boring or dry and dull. Unlike many etymology books, Webb Garrison's What's In a Word? is not arranged alphabetically, but rather distributed by 17 different categories of origin - Common Speech, Sports & Recreation, Education, etc. The book provides interesting one-or-two-paragraph explanations of words. For example: "Piggy Bank" traces its origins to a substance known as "pygg." In early days "pygg" was commonly used to make containers. Housewives, then, would keep their coins in these "pygg" containers. Over the years, the "pygg" fashioned into the animal that sounds like the substance leading to piggy banks. Let's take a phrase: What does it really mean to "bring home the bacon?" The origin of this phrase is traced to a 15th century entertainment venue in many ways similar to our modern-day reality shows. In 1445, a church in Essex County, England began awarding a "flitch of bacon" to the pair of newlyweds who after one year of marriage was chosen as the perfect example of happiness and fidelity. A jury of six bachelors and maidens judged the contest, and the winning couple literally "brought home the bacon." The book also explains and tells the stories of many other words like "Curfew" and "lens" and phrases like eleventh hour," "raising Cain," and "on the spot" in a conversational tone. Webb's easy style ensures that the reader enjoys learning about the meanings and origins of many a fascinating word.

    What's in a Word? Fascinating Stories of More Than 350 Everyday Words and Phrases is not a book that demands to be read from cover to cover in a sitting or two. I suppose though there will always be some readers who would read it like any other book. Garrison's What's In a Word? however is best read in bits and spurts. It's the kind of book that you pick up and open to any random page and read an entry or two and ruminate over what you've just learned. And with each reading you come away with some more insight and enlightenment about words.

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  • Posted March 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    what's in a word?

    Have you ever heard a word and wondered, "Who could ever come up with that?" This book is the answer to your questions. The back stories of well used words are here for all to see.
    -
    I started this book with great expectations. I was thinking about all of the words and phrases I hear on a daily basis that I really don't know where they originated. I was excited to see where these common phrases started and hoped I might be able to impress my friends with a little knowledge. However, I was slightly disappointed. Though there were some interesting words in there, some were such obvious definitions that I was confused as to why they were added. For example, it's pretty apparent that a computer virus is like a virus that makes a person sick. These simple explinations did nothing whatsoever for me and I feel like he was just adding in things to take up space because he had nothing better to define.
    Overall, I think I could have done without it. It never really caught my total interest, and I kept being drawn away from the book by more interesting stories by other authors.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 15, 2010

    What's in a Word? by Webb Garrison

    What's in a Word by Webb Garrison is a fun read for anyone who has an interest in words and where they come from.

    Description

    Have you ever woken up on the wrong side of the bed? Did you make it to that early morning meeting by the skin of your teeth? Was your heart in the right place when you proposed that idea, even though you couldn't hold a candle to the guy next to you who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth?

    If you've ever wondered what that word or phrase you just heard means, What's in a Word? is just the book for you. If you love words, this fascinating and humorous encyclopedia of more than three hundred fifty words and phrases and how they evolved will keep you entertained for hours.

    My View

    I'm a fan of words, and have an almost morbid curiosity as to where some words come from, so really enjoyed this book.

    If you're the type who ever wondered how a pineapple got it's name or why "tying the knot" is a term for marriage, then What's in a Word is the book for you.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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