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The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language Hardcover – 3 Nov 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 616 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Icon Books Ltd (3 Nov. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848313071
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848313071
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (616 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 16,415 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'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

Review

'I'm hooked on Forsyth's book - Crikey, but this is addictive' (Mathew Parris The Times)

'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)

'This year's must-have stocking filler - the angel on the top of the tree, the satsuma in the sock, the threepenny bit in the plum pudding, the essential addition to the library in the smallest room is Mark Forsyth's 'The Etymologicon'.' (Ian Sansom Guardian)

'This witty book liberates etymology from the dusty pages of the dictionary and brings it alive.' (Good Book Guide)

''The Etymologicon' contains fascinating facts' (Daily Mail)

'One of the books of the year. It is too enjoyable for words.' (Henry Coningsby Waterstones Watford)

'From Nazis and film buffs to heckling and humble pie, the obscure origins of commonly-used words and phrases are explained.' (Daily Telegraph)

‘The stocking filler of the season.’ (Robert McCrum, Observer)

'A collection of verbal curiosities … fascinating.’ (Spectator)

‘A perfect bit of stocking filler for the bookish member of the family, or just a cracking all-year-round-read. Highly recommended.’ (Spectator)

'Light, entertaining and fascinating … This is really one of those books where you have to fight hard to resist telling anyone in earshot little snippets every five minutes.’ (Brian Clegg, author of 'Inflight Science')

‘An absolute gem … a pleasure to read.’ (Books Monthly)

‘I want this book to be never-ending … a real winner.’ (Books Monthly)

‘It makes for a very good read … a perfect Christmas gift for anyone who might be interested in where our words come from.’ (A Common Reader)

‘I adored this book. I read and read and then I read some more until it was all gone. It was just my cup of tea, well presented, engaging, witty, wonderful. Full of usable facts and great anecdotes, it’s one of the only ‘history’ books I’ve read this year that was anything other than dull as dishwater. Full marks.’ (The Bookbag)

'Mark Forsyth, who blogs as 'The Inky Fool,' is an extreme and hugely entertaining practitioner.' (Financial Times)

'The subtitle ... 'A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language' ... is a misdescription. It is not a stroll; it is a plunge on a toboggan where the only way to stop is to fall off.' (Financial Times)

‘Witty and erudite … stuffed with the kind of arcane information that nobody strictly needs to know, but which is a pleasure to learn nonetheless.’ (Nick Duerden, Independent)

'[Forsyth] riff[s] very entertainingly on the hidden connections of words (from brackets and codpieces, to cappuccinos and monkeys).' (Robert McCrum, Guardian)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback
This is a good book if you’re willing to slog through it, and it’s instructive to read the piece on Milton, without whom we wouldn’t have words such as terrific, stunning, loquacious, Satanic, exhilarating, lovelorn and strangely enough cooking. “And because he was a Puritan, he invented words for all the fun things of which he disapproved. Without dear old Milton we would have no debauchery, no depravity, no extravagance, in fact nothing enjoyable at all,” says Forsyth. The tone of the above tells you, no doubt, that this book doesn’t have a serious delivery. I’m all for levity in it’s place, but much of this is simply matey, It’s as if you’re reading someone’s blog a lot of the time, which in point of fact you may be, as Forsyth is a blogger, otherwise known as ‘The Inky Fool’ - though he says that the majority of the book is not drawn from blogging extracts.

Nevertheless, he is interesting on the derivation of our different languages, as he is about translations from the bible. For instance, this:

“The strange children shall fail and be afraid out of their prisons.”

This, as Forsyth tells us, is from a Psalter that is still used in Church of England services today. It is, though wrongly translated by a man called Coverdale and should read as follows: “The foreign-born shall obey; and come trembling from their strongholds.”

But the best of Coverdale’s mistranslations is about Joseph whose neck, we are told in Psalm 105, was bound in iron. The problem is that Hebrew uses the same word for neck as it does for soul. The word is nefesh, and it usually means neck or throat, but it can mean breath and it can also mean soul, because the soul is the breath of life.
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