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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 (486 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
Price: 9.09 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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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.

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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 (486 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,481 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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
44 of 44 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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152 of 157 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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars opinions rather than research 9 Jun 2014
By Amanda
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Etymologicon was entertaining enough for the first page or so, but it soon becomes evident that there are no sources or references to back up what Mark Forsyth 'believes' to be the origin of a word. Given that he aims the book at people interested in the origins of language, it is a shame he didn't credit his readers with enough intelligence or interest to follow where his assertions had come from. Often he will say that there were several different possible explanations for a word's origin, but he just chose the one he thought 'most likely' (without detailing the others), which for me was personally frustrating; I was hoping for some solid research into the origins of words, not just somebody's personal opinion. I can do that myself at the pub.
A bit of a disappointment generally. If you really don't care whether what you're being told is true or not, then read this as it's fairly entertainingly written, but otherwise- don't bother!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly rivetting
I am sure even my review title has a hidden meaning that could mean something else. Wow what a read!!!
Published 1 day ago by MR M C CHANDLER
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book. One for the smallest room
Great book. One for the smallest room.
Published 2 days ago by James David Tribble
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Brilliant book
Published 4 days ago by fil
5.0 out of 5 stars The perfect lunch book
The man is a genius. Someone I would love to have lunch with (knowing that he would carry on an amusing 'conversation' all by himself and I could relax and enjoy the food).
Published 4 days ago by Jane Page
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very entertaining.
Published 10 days ago by Steve_O
4.0 out of 5 stars English through and through
Knowledgable, strategically and amusingly self-deprecating, a little bit of sexual innuendo... Overall very informative and enjoyable. Read more
Published 14 days ago by BELLE
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant. Learned so much
informative, entertaining, funny.
I borrowed it but may well buy a copy.
etymology can be a dull subject but this author really brings the subject alive.
Published 16 days ago by goron59
3.0 out of 5 stars x
Published 17 days ago by travelreader
4.0 out of 5 stars Very cleverly written book. A must for anyone who ...
Very cleverly written book. A must for anyone who likes to know about the origins of words. Written in a lighthearted humorous way.
Published 23 days ago by Avid Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Please buy enrich your understanding of our language
Published 25 days ago by Laney
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