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The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language Paperback – October 2, 2012
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“The stocking filler of the season...how else to describe a book that explains the connection between Dom Perignon and Mein Kampf.”--The Observer
“Crikey...this is addictive!”--The Times
“Mark Forsyth is clearly a man who knows his onions.”--Daily Telegraph
About 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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Top Customer Reviews
A small windy escape backwards, more obvious to the nose than ears; frequently by old ladies charged [blamed] on their lap-dogs.
And fice itself comes from the Old English fist, which likewise meant fart. In Elizabethan times a smelly dog was called a fisting cur, and by the eighteenth century any little dog was called a feist, and that's where we get the word feisty from. Little dogs are so prone to bark at anything that an uppity girl was called fiesty, straight from the flatulent dogs of yore. This is a point well worth remembering when you're next reading a film review about a 'feisty heroine.'
Mark Forsyth traces word roots, finds connections between words and phrases and tells stories - sometimes from today, sometimes from the recent past, and occasionally back to the days of the earliest human languages. His mind (I suspect) and this book (I can vouch) are a kind of linguistic equivalent of online WILFing. (WILF? Well, it ought to be wwilf. It stands for, "What was I looking for?" and it's a way of describing those lost eight hours you spent browsing websites about pre-Ptolemaic kingdoms, when all you meant to do was find the population of Brisbane for your daughter's geography project.)
Each section of the book (the word 'chapter' doesn't really fit) is a kind of walking tour of the linguistic highlands. You learn a lot along the way, but in truth what's happening is that you're mainly enjoying the company of your witty and learned guide, as he traces strange connections, notes the oddities of word origins and how often we use terms that have fascinating (and occasionally scandalous) origins and generally makes you think about the English language.
I loved the book, and keep it on my Kindle. And it's given me a whole mine of useless but fascinating information. It's certainly a good book to give as a gift: it's a fun book just to dip into for anyone with the slightest interest in language. If you're anything like me you will read and re-read. I find I remember that there's a curious story behind a particular word, but I have to go back to the book to search it out. (I wonder if Forsyth really goes around with all this in his head!)
Some people may find the author's style irritating. And if you're looking for an academic study, this book is definitely not for you. Dip into the book via Amazon's useful 'Look Inside' feature. If you're grabbed - get it. And if you don't like the sample, you won't like the whole.
I don't know any books that are similar, but if you are interested in the English language, I would recommend The Mother Tongue - English And How It Got That Way, or The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language. Or if you like this kind of curious adventure through facts and counter-facts, try QI: the Book of General Ignorance (Q1).
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I loved it.