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Dictionary of Word Origins: A History of the Words, Expressions and Cliches We Use Paperback – 5 Dec 1996

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Citadel Press; Reprint edition (5 Dec. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806517131
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806517131
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 2 x 20.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,411,413 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Dictionary of Word Origins: A History of the Words, Expressions and Cliches We Use

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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A.Trendl HungarianBookstore.com on 25 Feb. 2005
Format: Paperback
Jordan Almond's "Dictionary of Word Origins" is an intriguing look at phrases and words we all toss about apart from their original meaning. This book is about those original meanings of cliches.
This is different than most 'unusual word' dictionaries. Usually, you'll get the term, maybe a pronunciation and a short definiton. Instead, here we are introduced to where the word came from. He explains it carefully in layman's language. He doesn't gussy up his book with high-fallootin' lexographical phrasology.
For example, he defines (for a camel to pass through the) "eye of a needle" by describing it biblical origination, and connects it with a Jewish town gateway so small only pedestrians and the smallest of camels can pass through, not large camels (hence, protecting the town from pillagers). Christ famously refers to this in the New Testament, forever placing the phrase in our vernacular.
Jordan tosses our way what 'doughboy,' 'hair of the dog,' 'grandfather clock,' 'corn,' 'boondoggle,' 'nose to the grindstone."
'Manna' for example, means, "What is it?" as the Isrealites had no idea what they were being given. 'Maudlin,' Jordan reveals, is from the British pronunciation of 'Magdalene,' and that early artists painted Mary Magdalene with a dour demeanor.
Editorial historians might differ with Jordan as per the precise origin of 'OK.' They would argue that it was a silly joke--an intended deviation of "all correct" (oll korekt) as written on acceptable copy. Jordan suggests that it is from Martin Van Buren's nickname of Old Kinderhook while he ran for office.
Knowing this is not a scientific text, you can enjoy this as I did, as something to wander through while sipping tea and munching warm scones on an early Saturday morning. Linguists, cultural anthropologists might all disagree about the beginnings of words, but, for me, it was a fun, educational read.
I fully recommend "Dictionary of Word Origins" by Jordan Almond.
Anthony Trendl
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Animation on 30 July 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am someone who has actually bought this book and not just writing a review for the sake of writing it or what the reason the other guy has written his review. I doubt he has read it or owned it.

This book is a complete waste of money. This is hardly a dictionary. Printed on poor quality paper and large type there are only about 3 to 4 definitions per. Also this is an American book and there fore has many phrases that are alien to the British reader. Arkansas toothpick is an example. A lot of the expressions in this book are out dated. This book is completely useless if you want to look up modern phrases.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 14 reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Intriguing, Instructional, Curious 23 Oct. 2002
By A.Trendl HungarianBookstore.com - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Jordan Almond's "Dictionary of Word Origins" is an intriguing look at phrases and words we all toss about apart from their original meaning. This book is about those original meanings of cliches.
This is different than most 'unusual word' dictionaries. Usually, you'll get the term, maybe a pronunciation and a short definiton. Instead, here we are introduced to where the word came from. He explains it carefully in layman's language. He doesn't gussy up his book with high-fallootin' lexographical phrasology.
For example, he defines (for a camel to pass through the) "eye of a needle" by describing it biblical origination, and connects it with a Jewish town gateway so small only pedestrians and the smallest of camels can pass through, not large camels (hence, protecting the town from pillagers). Christ famously refers to this in the New Testament, forever placing the phrase in our vernacular.
Jordan tosses our way what 'doughboy,' 'hair of the dog,' 'grandfather clock,' 'corn,' 'boondoggle,' 'nose to the grindstone."
'Manna' for example, means, "What is it?" as the Isrealites had no idea what they were being given. 'Maudlin,' Jordan reveals, is from the British pronunciation of 'Magdalene,' and that early artists painted Mary Magdalene with a dour demeanor.
Editorial historians might differ with Jordan as per the precise origin of 'OK.' They would argue that it was a silly joke--an intended deviation of "all correct" (oll korekt) as written on acceptable copy. Jordan suggests that it is from Martin Van Buren's nickname of Old Kinderhook while he ran for office.
Knowing this is not a scientific text, you can enjoy this as I did, as something to wander through while sipping tea and munching warm scones on an early Saturday morning. Linguists, cultural anthropologists might all disagree about the beginnings of words, but, for me, it was a fun, educational read.
I fully recommend "Dictionary of Word Origins" by Jordan Almond.
Anthony Trendl
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Enjoyable but inaccurate. 17 Aug. 1999
By Johnny@kcinter.net - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I liked this book but found mistakes. I feel that I can not always trust definitions or explanations submitted by Mr. Almond. Two examples would be "bull pen" and thimble. It has some very interesting information but should be double checked.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Students beware! 7 Feb. 2013
By Robert M. Freedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Some of the would-be word origins given in this book are so absurdly inaccurate that I'm forced to conclude that it was written as some sort of joke.

Case in point: The word "barbarian" is said to have come about because the ancient Greeks considered the that the spoken languages of foreigners sounded like nonsense - to quote the author, ". . . like a series of ba-ba sounds . . ." - and because of that, we are told, they called foreigners "barbarians". Uhhh, nope!

Interestingly, this curious piece of etymological fantasy will not be found in the listing of B-words. It appears in the H-section as part of the equally specious explanation of how the expression "hubba-hubba" came into being.
interesting 1 Jan. 2013
By Jazzinnia - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Some explanations seem rather corny = a far stretch. Is there such an author as "Jordan Almond"?
There seem to be a few books out there extremely similar, page for page.
Decent resource for writers & coaches 1 Nov. 2008
By Joyce Schwarz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Word derivation is a good resource to have on your bookshelf. It's also a good resource to have in doing self-development work where you are asked to create your own motto or vision statement. It's a good resource for writers and for career counselors.
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