Word Origins ... and How We Know Them: Etymology for Everyone

Word Origins ... and How We Know Them: Etymology for Everyone

by Anatoly Liberman
     
 

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"Millions of people want to know the origin of the words they use. Word columns in daily newspapers and numerous books attempt to satisfy their curiosity. Word histories are usually digested like pills: the user is interested in getting well, not in the chemistry of the prescribed medication. Those who send letters to the Editor also want a straight answer without

Overview

"Millions of people want to know the origin of the words they use. Word columns in daily newspapers and numerous books attempt to satisfy their curiosity. Word histories are usually digested like pills: the user is interested in getting well, not in the chemistry of the prescribed medication. Those who send letters to the Editor also want a straight answer without bothering about how "editors" come by their knowledge. Therefore, they fail to realize that etymologies are seldom definitive and that the science of etymology is intensely interesting. Perhaps if someone explained to them that, compared to the drama of words, Hamlet is a light farce, they might develop a more informed attitude toward philological research and become students of historical linguistics rather than gullible consumers of journalists' pap."--Anatoly Liberman Word Origins is the only guide to the science and process of etymology for the layperson. This funny, charming, and conversational book not only tells the known origins of hundreds of words, but also shows how their origins were determined. Liberman, an internationally acclaimed etymologist, takes the reader by the hand and explains the many ways that English words can be made, and the many ways in which etymologists try to unearth the origins of words. Part history, part how-to, and completely entertaining, Word Origins invites readers behind the scenes to watch an etymologist at work.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Liberman (German, Scandinavian, & Dutch, Univ. of Minnesota) is an internationally acclaimed scholar of word origins (among many other subjects) and has taken time out of his herculean task of writing an exhaustive, 17-years-in-the-making etymological dictionary of English to bring us this labor of love for word enthusiasts everywhere. Most popular books of etymology are essentially dictionaries of alphabetically organized common or colorful words and phrases as well as the entertaining histories behind them. Liberman's work, in contrast, is an amusing, scholarly stroll through the art, science, and detective work of etymology, illuminating the origins of hundreds of words along the way. For levity, he styles his chapter titles in the manner of 18th-century comic novels ("Chapter Eleven in which history pretends to raise its veil, or Coinages by Known Individuals"). But while Liberman's humor, passion, and erudition are everywhere evident, his editor's pen is not. A slight tendency toward stream-of-consciousness rambling and an occasional missed transitional word or phrase make for some confusing and poorly written passages (e.g., "The Germanic group of languages, which is at the center of our interest, because English belongs to it, has several features that characterize it uniquely"). Though a tightened second edition would be nice, word, name, and subject indexing lend this title reference value; recommended.-Nadine Cohen-Baker, Univ. of Georgia, Athens Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199889013
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
04/13/2009
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
967,383
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Anatoly Liberman is Professor of the Humanities at the University of Minnesota. For the past seventeen years, he has been working on a new etymological dictionary of English. He lives in Minneapolis.

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