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.