Book Review: The Etymologicon by Mark Forsyth

Synopsis: The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language 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.

Number of pages: 288

Rating: 10/10

Overall Impression: A fascinating, twisting and turning tour of the English language. Witty and intelligent, with something new to learn on every page, even when you thought you knew the origin of a word.
The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language

Quite literally what it says on the tin: a circular stroll through words. And it is fascinating. One word leads on the next, some links are obvious while others are dubious (initially). Due to the way it seemingly jumps from subject to subject, it takes you here, there and everywhere.

It takes you from Proto-Indo-European languages to internetspeak, from east to west and everywhere in between. The connections between words is sometimes so blindingly obvious that you just never thought of it that way, while some are really random and obscure.

Forsyth has a amusing turn of phrase that makes you chuckle. The chapters are short and snappy. It's the sort of book you can pick up for a quick five-minute break and wish you had a bit longer to follow the trail he's leading you on.

It's like a world history lesson disguised as a English lesson. How and when words entered the language coincide with invasions, wars and cultural shifts through the centuries. Words have been stolen, stolen back and stolen once more to words that are virtually unrecognisable.

One of my favourite parts was when Forsyth showed that you can form a completely grammatically correct sentence with just one word. And not just in English! Just goes to show that language does not follow any sort of helpful logic...

I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is even marginally interested in the English language, language in general, and idiom. To be quite honest, I was disappointed when the leisurely stroll ended.

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