"This book is a collection of stories behind words. It is not meant to be a comprehensive treatise on the origin of words; rather, it presents a selection of some of the most fascinating stories behind words."
The above is found in the introduction to this intriguing, slim anthology of entertaining etymology by Anu Garg, creator of "A word A Day" Internet site. Over 250 words, (names, and terms) have their origins explored, both common words and not-so-common words. As well, the quotation that titles this review is completely accurate--nothing compares to the drama of words.
Here's a sample of some of this book's chapter titles along with a sampling of a few words etc. whose origins are explored:
(1) Tasty words: baker's dozen, trencherman, julienne, frankenfood
(2) People who became words: Annie Oakley, Ponzi scheme, Goldwynism, Xanthippe
(3) Fictional characters who came alive (through words): Boniface, sad sack, Sherlock, zelig, mitty
(4) Places that became words: Spartan, Corinthian, Neanderthal, New York minute
(5) It's all a myth: tantalize, apollonian, phoenix, dragon's teeth
Peppered throughout the book are 77 puzzles or trivia questions about words. Examples include:
(1) What's a synonym of the word synonym?
(2) What letter of the alphabet is the dog's letter?
(3) What word becomes shorter when two letters are added to it?
(4) What's the only number that has as many letters in its spelling as its value?
(5) What word begins with a "t," ends with a "t," and is full of T?
Finally, the only problem I had with this book is that the phonetic spelling of the words (to aid in pronunciation) are not indicated. For the more common words, this is no problem. However, for the not-so-common words, I would have liked to have known how to properly pronounce them.
In conclusion, this book is definitely "an ideal way to have fun while getting smarter."
(first published late 2007; introduction; 17 chapters; main narrative 170 pages; answers to puzzles; acknowledgements; index)
<<Stephen Pletko, London, Ontario, Canada>>