The origins of thousands of words in the English language explored and explained.
The average contemporary English speaker knows 50,000 words. Yet stripped down to its origins, this apparently huge vocabulary is in reality much smaller, derived from Latin, French and the Germanic languages. It is estimated that every year, 800 neologisms are added to the English language: acronyms (nimby), blended words (motel), and those taken from foreign languages (savoir-faire). Laid out in an A-Z format with detailed cross references, and written in a style that is both authoritative and accessible, Word Origins is a valuable historical guide to the English language."
What is the source of love? Where does Lust come from? Where does a baby come from? All this an more, can be answered in this book. Packed with 554 pages of words, common and not so, this book offers some firm evidence, some supposition, and some basic theorising as to the origins... so though this is certainly an astounding reference tome, it should be treated as a concise guide only.
Extra features I thought were wonderful, and could easily have filled volumes more, were the clear descriptions of each of the languages refered to within, and the Word Family Trees at the back, a particular favourite of mine to draw in my head as I contemplate the connections and similarities in the languages I come across.
Overall, this is an amazing read, the connections seem so understandable and obvious when presented so clearly, and I felt I gained a better understanding, not only of the differences between the languages, but also the similarities, influences and unexpected overlaps in the most unlikely places. I found it quite fascinating to flick through, and just check some of the words I heard around me day to day. Try it, you'll be surprised at what you discover.
John Ayto presents a well written, authoratative book on a subject on which he is clearly passionate. His work presents a gleeful romp through the intricacies and vaguaries of the English language and its history and evolution through the ages, and through the countries, from where our mother tongue originated..
The book is laid out in a logical dictionary fashion, with each word listed having a thorough explanation, history and links to words that are descended from similar roots, which in many cases, brings to light some surprising family histories of words - some are graphically illustrated in a visual family tree in the end pages, which, when shown to work colleagues, drew some surprising gasps on the origin and diversities of words with a common root.
Word Origins is both a coffee table book, to be picked up and dipped in for those who have an interest in words, as well as a serious reference book for the ardent logophile and budding etymologist - a surprising . Word Origins is a serious must to anyone's bookshelf - and I can guarentee that my copy will be in regular use.
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