Etymology Is Fun!

14/12/2013 13:59

... or how I realized one can actually enjoy obscure and even quite ordinary WORDS.

Some of us had to go through the etymology class in our department, some of you are just eagerly waiting what it looks like. Yes, all of us felt it doesn’t make sense at all at times... For everybody out there like this, let me present to you a book of wonder, The Etymologicon by Mark Forsyth.

Did you know that JFK’s name meant “God loved the ugly-face”? Did you know cute is a clipping from acute? Do you know there is a connection between The Rolling Stones and gardening? Between Dom Pérignon and Mein Kampf?

All this you can find in this far-from-dry work of genius. The Etymologicon is a book that emerged from the Inky Fool blog, illuminating strange connections between words. Geeky as it seems, it was successful enough to get noticed by an independent publisher. From there it was just one step away from getting a publishing deal and writing a masterpiece, which serves as a guided tour through all the back alleys of the English language and shows you connections between words you wouldn’t even dream about. It’s fascinating, excellent, hard to read without smiling.

It is a rare thing to see authors of vast knowledge keeping on top of things. Yes, words are not something that solves the problem of global poverty. Mark Forsyth himself admits his blog and book are attempts to share stacks of useless information. It is not useless though. Besides unravelling the horrible truth about the reader probably being a word-lover, it truly is highly educational. To the point you get hooked.

The different words in the book go silky-smooth after one another. See, the bi-in biscuit is the same bi-as in bisexual – the term coined by Krafft-Ebing, and Ebbing also coined masochism, which means... You don’t have to be scared that you have to read just another type of dictionary, A-Z, or words coupled according to their origin. High five for that! And it has a Sunday Times Number One Bestseller stamp on it! Come on, you’ve got to give the poor guy a chance.

But you know what they say: One quote is worth a thousand descriptions. So here we go.


When explaining halcyon days, he frankly comments on the sad ways of life. “Poetry is much more important than truth, and, if you don’t believe that, try using the two methods to get laid.”

“The word gymnasium comes from Greek gymnazein, meaning to train in the nude, which itself comes from gymnos, meaning naked. But if you could take your mind off the naked boys (which many Greek philosophers found difficult)....”


The book cover mentions that it’s occasionally ribald, so you cannot say the author has not warned you. And for those who dare to read on, the book has a sibling called The Horlogicon. So if you are still trying to figure out what to give some of your linguistically-impaired friends/colleagues for Christmas, now you know.

Kristína Škovierová




Date: 14/12/2013

By: ZF

Subject: .

oh now I know what I want for Christmas. :)

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