- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Random House Reference; First Edition edition (March 25, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0375426124
- ISBN-13: 978-0375426124
- Product Dimensions: 4.8 x 1 x 7.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #865,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Semantic Antics: How and Why Words Change Meaning Hardcover – March 25, 2008
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Steinmetz begins with several different reasons why words can develop and change over time and adds to that at the end. It serves as a good set of bookends to the text within. Amelioration (upgrading of words) and pejoration (downgrading) appear most often, it seems, as the likely causes for word changes, with the latter far more prevalent. Each entry is brief but just the right length to hold the reader's interest. I highly recommend "Semantic Antics" as a terrific addition to etymology.
"At last, a book about the evolution of the English language that is written in a breezy, interesting style! Whether you have an academic or a casual interest in the history of the language, Semantic Antics traces some of the most interesting words in our language from their roots to modern day usage --- in an accurate, non-pedantic manner."
The book tells the story of how words have evolved. This could be interesting, but they are printed in alphabetical order, rather than say by pattern of the evolution of meaning, original meaning of words, etc.
The book is therefore a dictionary with very few words. This is particularly problematic because there is another dictionary out there where you learn the origin of words, it is a little book called the Oxford English Dictionary.
For instance, another reviewer here asks 'who would have thought that satellite meant bodyguard?' The OED!. It says of satellite:
1656;"one retained to guard a mans person"
Yes, Semantics Antics does not just list previous meanings, it tells you a brief story, but it is not appealing to read an alphabetical list of stories of words.
What's really a pitty is that the intro to the book sheds some light on how the book could have been written. It gives an overview of the few patterns in which the meaning of words evolves through time; if only the book was organized along those general trends, it would actually add value to simply randomly reading the OED.