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The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language [Hardcover]

Mark Forsyth
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (501 customer reviews)
RRP: £12.99
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Book Description

3 Nov 2011
The Etymologicon springs from Mark Forsyth's Inky Fool blog on the strange connections between words. It's an occasionally ribald, frequently witty and unerringly erudite guided tour of the secret labyrinth that lurks beneath the English language, taking in monks and monkeys, film buffs and buffaloes, and explaining precisely what the Rolling Stones have to do with gardening.

Frequently Bought Together

The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language + The Horologicon: A Day's Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English Language + The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Icon Books (3 Nov 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848313071
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848313071
  • Product Dimensions: 2.8 x 13 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (501 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


'I'm hooked on Forsyth's book ... Crikey, but this is addictive' - Mathew Parris, The Times, October 13

'One of the books of the year. It is too enjoyable for words.' - Henry Coningsby, Bookseller

'The Etymologicon, contains fascinating facts' - Daily Mail, October 24

'Kudos should go to Mark Forsyth, author of The Etymologicon ... Clearly a man who knows his onions, Mr Forsyth must have worked 19 to the dozen, spotting red herrings and unravelling inkhorn terms, to bestow this boon - a work of the first water, to coin a phrase.' - Daily Telegraph

'The stocking filler of the season... How else to describe a book that explains the connection between Dom Pérignon and Mein Kampf, ' - Robert McCrum, The Observer

'A perfect bit of stocking filler for the bookish member of the family, or just a cracking all-year-round-read. Highly recommended.'
- Matthew Richardson, The Spectator, 15 Nov

From the Author

Mark Forsyth is a writer, journalist and blogger. Every job he's ever had, whether as a ghost-writer or proof-reader or copy-writer, has been to do with words. He started The Inky Fool blog in 2009 and now writes a post almost every day. The blog has received worldwide attention and enjoys an average of 4,000 hits per week.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars have a serendipitous dip inside 8 Nov 2011
what a wonderful compendium of interesting links between the words in our language. this is the perfect companion to an armchair and a log fire; and, after reading this book, you won't see English in the same way as you did before - you'll see English as a far friendlier entity, full of interconnections and pleasing self-references. buy 'the etymologicon' today, i urge you: if you want to enjoy all the more every single conversation you'll ever have in the future, that is.
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191 of 194 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful 3 Nov 2011
Mark Forsyth's meanderings through the English language are carried off with a panache that frankly leaves other etymological 'dictionaries' looking dry, dusty and rightly shelf-bound. Indeed, the fact that the book starts with the phrase "a turn up for the books" indicates exactly that; this is not a reference book, but a new, unique and often hilarious way of drawing out the richness of English in the form of a comic journey through the verbal linkages, rhyming paths and allegorical alleyways which crowd the author's inventive mind. Equally, though you can dip in and out so it's ideal commuting reading. I was most amused to learn about the link between underwear and Christianity on my way home today. I shall be on Amazon stocking up on more copies to stock stockings before Christmas... Any link there?
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153 of 158 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A witty and erudite delight 3 Nov 2011
This witty and erudite book was filed in the reference section of my local bookshop. But despite the slightly forbidding title, and the fact that it is full of enlightening facts and connections, it shouldn't be be bought for reference so much as enjoyment("edutainment", perhaps, although the eloquent Mr Forsyth would probably disapprove of such a clumsy coinage). Perhaps the best way to describe it is to say that it wears its learning very lightly.

The writer takes you on a whirlwind journey through a series of words and historical facts, ingeniously linking each one to the next. There's a fair amount of schoolboy humour, so perhaps not one to buy for someone who doesn't appreciate references to codpieces, but this all adds to the fun (who would have guessed that feisty came from a word meaning "fart"?)

It was very difficult to read this without smiling, both at the jokes and with the joy of discovering new and useless scraps of information.
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Like many people I am mildly interested in where words come from and I've occasionally read books like David Crystal's By Hook Or By Crook: A Journey in Search of English which looks at where English place-names come from. Unless books like these are skilfully written they can quickly become tedious and its usually best to get this sort of information in smallers chunk from newspapers or magazines.

Mark Forsyth publishes the Inky Fool blog in which he looks at the derivation of words, but links one to another in a humorous ramble through the English language. Mark is one of those lucky bloggers who's blog has now become a book, The Etymologicon, and I have to say, it makes for a very good read which I've been dipping into over the last week.

Its probably better to illustrate Mark's methods with an example than to describe them. For example, in a chapter headed A Game of Chicken Mark describes how in medieval France people used to gamble by putting money in a pot then throwing stones at a chicken until someone hit it. This was the game of poule, which is French for chicken. Later on, the pot of money in the middle of a card table came to be known as the poule and this term was picked up by English gamblers who changed the spelling to pool.

We read on to learn the forward connections to the game of pool and then to pooling money, and resources and then onto typing pools and car pools and ends with pointing gout that we have all become part of the gene pool "which, etymologically, means that we are all little bits of chicken".

I was surprised how in order to get his connections Mark has to link words from all the European languages.
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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
This is a great little book. I was reading it on the tube to work and the Dutch word for butterfly (I don't want to give it away but it involves a very literal translation of buterschijte) genuinely made me laugh out loud, in a very quiet carriage. Erudite, witty, lots of fun and great to dip in and out of.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully funny and educational by turns 21 Dec 2011
Not so much a circular stroll as a madcap chase, this is a book which never stays still for a moment and is constantly veering off in unexpected directions.

Another reviewer complains that the author is trying to make etymology "accessible", but I think he's aiming far higher: he's trying to make etymology funny, and he succeeds in spades.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A little joy 13 Nov 2011
I've just started reading The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language and can't recommend it too highly to anyone who has an interest in, or a love of, words. The author, Mark Forsyth, says his family forced him into writing it as all other avenues of self- or psychiatric help couldn't cure him of his insistence in not only taking a single simple word and tracing its roots, and their roots, and their roots, but then talking about it to anyone with the temerity to ask and the patience to listen.

The first chapter takes us from books to bookmakers to turn-ups; the second from medieval French gambling to the gene-pool - honestly, there are links - and all written with a wryly self-deprecatory style. You'll find it in your Christmas stocking if you're lucky.

And I don't know the author.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended.
Fascinating. Read it.
Published 6 days ago by Mr Rotavator
4.0 out of 5 stars A great book to dip in and out of if you ...
A great book to dip in and out of if you like words, their meanings and origins - and I do!
Published 7 days ago by Steve Hewitt
5.0 out of 5 stars ... from it on Radio 4 and it was a great buy. Try it
I bought this after hearing extracts from it on Radio 4 and it was a great buy. Try it.
Published 12 days ago by J.van de Kamp
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable reference
A fun read to dip into whenever you have a minute. I can't remember if it was free or 99p but well worth it and the type of reference you can keep going back to.
Published 14 days ago by Ali
4.0 out of 5 stars If you love words and the English language buy this now
Very enjoyable. If you love words and the English language buy this now. You won't regret it.
Published 17 days ago by meharibear
3.0 out of 5 stars an okay book, but it's not for serious people
It's okay... to be honest the best thing about this is the nice hardback cover with the gold inlay. It's entertaining at first, but I was hoping for something a bit deeper. Read more
Published 20 days ago by Peter
4.0 out of 5 stars This is really fun. I love to know the origins of our ...
This is really fun. I love to know the origins of our words. Well done Mark Forsyth! It's not a book, though, to buy in its Kindle form. No dipping in and out is possible. Read more
Published 21 days ago by Jude
5.0 out of 5 stars enjoyable
Such an interesting read. Have really enjoyed it!
Published 22 days ago by Tara
3.0 out of 5 stars It's okay
Not as entertaining as I expected
Published 22 days ago by fogey74
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 23 days ago by alangranger
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