This book is gorgeous, readable and impressive. Gorgeous, as it is styled in old-fashioned luxury - rich red hardcover, gold embossing, thick cream pages. Readable, as it has a good balance between intellectual breadth and depth, and humour and pop-cultural references. The origins of these diverse words touch on history, mythology, science, languages, literature, geography.... and Mark Forsyth manages to sound authoritative without pompousness. The episodic structure of the book also makes it very easy to read (the pieces originated as blog posts); it is a book you can dip into casually. Impressive, because, as the subtitle mentions, this is a 200-page daisy-chain of a book. Each piece connects to the next via a series of digressions, and the last piece then connects back to the first piece. The mind boggles, regardless of whether the pieces were strategically planned, or serendipitous (or a bit of both).
The Etymologicon (and anything else by Mark Forsyth really; see also my earlier review on his A History of Drunkenness) are perfect holiday reads for people who want light reads that include some intellectual nourishment.
This book is for fans of language, trivia or just plain everyday life. Mark Forsyth is an erudite an cheeky guide to the origins of language. The entries are well researched but also short and snappy enough to avoid being too dry.
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