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What's in a Surname?: A Journey from Abercrombie to Zwicker Hardcover – International Edition, September 9, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 294 pages
  • Publisher: Random House UK (September 9, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847946941
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847946942
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.2 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,106,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"David McKie's incredibly detailed research and his diamond-sharp prose make this book a delight, full of wisdom and fun." Simon Hoggart "We are all slaves to our surnames. There is no escape from them. Be they grand or humble, David McKie sees behind every one a trail of genealogy and history, wealth and poverty, celebrity and shame. Names are the nation's most secretive record, our island still in code. It is brilliantly revealed in this book." Simon Jenkins "Endlessly entertaining ... [McKie] buzzes like a bee from source to source, collecting all the sweetest things." Craig Brown, The Mail on Sunday "[A] delightful book ... [McKie] remains throughout both a beguiling and erudite guide." Andrew Holgate, The Sunday Times "A book of great zest and interest ... wonderful eruptions of bare lists of strange or silly names, beguiling anecdotes, and interesting titbits ... McKie has a whimsical cast of mind and a fine sense of humour." Sam Leith, The Guardian

About the Author

David McKie formerly worked for the Guardian as a political reporter, deputy editor, chief leader writer, and author of the "Elsewhere" and "Smallweed" columns. His much-praised account of a Victorian conman, Jabez: The Rise and Fall of a Victorian Rogue, was shortlisted for the Whitbread Biography Award. He has also written such widely acclaimed books as Great British Bus Journeys and McKie's Gazetteer.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Bookie on August 30, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I've always been interested in names but never expected to be blown away by a book dedicated to the topic.

The research required must have been phenomenal. Mr McKie's approach is systematic and although every page is packed with names and facts, it's a delightfully easy and entertaining read. I now know that Farmers may have originated as tax collectors, Walkers were cloth treaders and on the way have read about Gyldeballes and Sweatenbollockes.

But this is no lightweight work. It's a detailed social history going back to medieval times, looking at the origins of surnames and their distribution and change. As people migrated from one place to another, so their name was seeded. Tin mines in Cornwall closed and the next thing predominantly Cornish names appeared in the North East as people moved to look for work. This is predominantly a book about people and culture. It's quirky, fascinating, intriguing and in part raises as many questions as it answers. This is not just a tedious list of names, its a celebration of the richness and diversity of the English language. Anyone who enjoys reading will take something from this book. I found it a complete joy and one that I'll be dipping into again and again. Brilliant!

Copy of my Amazon UK review.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The previous review cannot be improved upon. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I am passionate about t he subject and I couldn't put the book down.
But it would make a wonderful gift for anyone who loves to read.
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