18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 9 November 2009
As a theologian and philosopher, I own and use many etymological dictionaries. I bought Klein's Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language in 1999. I have been very impressed with the work itself, but would always recommend comparing the views of different etymologists. One of the merits of Klein's dictionary is explained in his Introduction, where he cites the importance and therefore inclusion of about 750 words of Semitic origin. It also includes the etymology of personal names and mythological names. The subtitle of this dictionary says: 'Dealing with the origin of words and their sense development thus illustrating the history of civilization and culture.' Again the relevance of this is elaborated in the Introduction, where Klein states that in contradistinction to other etymological dictionaries: '...its aim is not only to give the history of words, but to give also History in words. He continues: 'This dictionary is the first attempt to give the history of human civilization and culture condensed in the etymological data of words. We not only speak but think and even dream in words. Language is a mirror in which the whole spiritual development of mankind reflects itself. Therefore, in tracing words to their origin, we are tracing simultaneously civilization and culture to their real roots.' Klein, in my view, lives up to this claim. The etymology of each word becomes a joy to read. In many respects it's like a book of spells in that it's easy to open this book and to become entranced as a result. On the downside, having spent over £100 ten years ago, I would expect this book to last my lifetime at least. Unfortunately this is not so. My etymological dictionaries, which to me are my spanners, get a lot of use, but I'm extremely careful with them on account of them being precious to me. However, whilst my other etymological dictionaries (Skeat, Partridge, Oxford, Chambers, etc), remain in perfect condition, my dictionary by Klein is falling apart. The spine is the real problem, in that the plastic-like cover (not leather or cloth) is coming away from the card beneath. The publisher is the very large Dutch company, Elsevier. I have tried to contact them directly to complain about the quality, but having never received any replies, I gave up long ago. Another downside is that the actual type inside appears to be a facsimile of the original, and isn't clear in places. However, I must admit such instances are rare. I like the dictionary so much that I'm often tempted to buy a new one, but I can't help thinking the same will happen again. I would dearly love to have the same dictionary, but with a different publisher. I may in fact have the book rebound, but this I have been told by the binders will cost at least another £100. This, in effect, would mean paying twice for the very same book. All in all, the book in terms of the quality of the content is excellent. However, whilst the book is not cheap, the quality of the publication certainly is.