- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (March 24, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195161475
- ISBN-13: 978-0195161472
- Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 1.2 x 5.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,373,500 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Word Origins ... and How We Know Them: Etymology for Everyone 1st Edition
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"Word Origins is chock full of intriguing, accessible insights into how our language has evolved, mutated and otherwise morphed over thousands of years."--Pulse
"The erudite and winsome Liberman explains his work as an etymologist, which includes historical cases to crack and tall tales to debunk."--Chicago Tribune
"While Anatoly Liberman's study of the English language covers such interesting topics as sound-imitative words, compounds, coinages, and borrowings, it does so in a way that actually manages to be dense and scholarly and tongue-in-cheek and amusing, all at the same time."--Library Media Connection
"Those seriously interested in the origins of our language, who actively want to find out more about the way etymologists work, and who along the way don't mind taking in some sobering guidance on the pitfalls of ferreting out word histories."--World Wide Words
"As a sideline to his long ongoing work on a new etymological dictionary of English, Liberman enlightens general readers...about the challenges faced by etymologists in tracing word origins and evolved meanins. His explanations cover philosophical musings, historical debates in the field, and words imitating sounds."--Reference and Research Book News
"It may sound simple, but etymology -- the study of word origins -- is in fact murky and tedious, if unfailingly fascinating. Liberman's book is an examination of the process of determining how a word originated, and it shows how complex his craft can be."--Chicago Tribune
About 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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Top Customer Reviews
This approach makes the book a juicy read, especially on "funny" English words; the sections on ablaut series etc. lack the same flourish and are mercifully small. Yet even in the juicy part there are quite a number of promising
paragraphs that lead nowhere. For example, on page 101 we learn that "Cockney" has an interesting origin, but that origin is never revealed.
Much too much to my taste is attributed to sound symbolism (page 212: the b in "to beat" is suggested to be "imitative (echoic)" of the beating action; the argument is that out of 115 synonyms of "beat, strike" about 20 begin with a b) or explained as "baby words" (pig - big - bag for "swollen things"). I think such claims are warranted only when supported by similar phenomena from several non-Indo-European languages. I personally cannot find back any of these sound symbolisms in Hebrew, the only Non-IE language I know well. Latin "capere" (to take), Finnish "kappan" (to seize) and Hebr. "kaf" (hollow hand) may very well be related (and I think they probably are) but I don't hear any sound symbolism in them (page 43). For that matter, Hebr. "khataf" (he grabbed) sounds much more like seizing.
The editing is far from perfect; one problem is that the Old-English/Icelandic letter "thorn" (a p with an upward stick like a b) is often printed as a p (f.e. page 83). In summary, the subtitle "Etymology for Everybody" is fully justified, but it is a limited form of etymology.