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Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legendsby David Wilton
Synopses & Reviews
Do you "know" that posh comes from an acronym meaning "port out, starboard home"? That "the whole nine yards" comes from (pick one) the length of a WWII gunner's belt; the amount of fabric needed to make a kilt; a sarcastic football expression? That Chicago is called "The Windy City" because of the bloviating habits of its politicians, and not the breeze off the lake?
If so, you need this book. David Wilton debunks the most persistently wrong word histories, and gives, to the best of our actual knowledge, the real stories behind these perennially mis-etymologized words.
In addition, he explains why these wrong stories are created, disseminated, and persist, even after being corrected time and time again. What makes us cling to these stories, when the truth behind these words and phrases is available, for the most part, at any library or on the Internet?
Arranged by chapters, this book avoids a dry A-Z format. Chapters separate misetymologies by kind, including The Perils of Political Correctness (picnics have nothing to do with lynchings), Posh, Phat Pommies (the problems of bacronyming--the desire to make every word into an acronym), and CANOE (which stands for the Conspiracy to Attribute Nautical Origins to Everything).
Word Myths corrects long-held and far-flung examples of wrong etymologies, without taking the fun out of etymology itself. It's the best of both worlds: not only do you learn the many wrong stories behind these words, you also learn why and how they are created--and what the real story is.
Book News Annotation:
Amateur, no make that professional logophile and word origins website editor Wilton corrects the mistakes many of us make in what we believe are the origins of words and phrases. He begins by examining the origins of these fallacies, and why we persist in perpetuating them. Fully armed, he then goes on to expose the "big boys," such as "rule of thumb," and the 500 words Eskimos are said to have for "snow." He goes on to settle with the English in a chapter entitled "Posh, Phat Pommies," and then takes on naval destroyers of the language. In following chapters he battles hookers, political correctness, wax tadpoles and jelly donuts. After relieving us of any misconceptions about the existence of Dr. Condom, and sorting out that pesky "crap" question, Wilton concludes with ways to find, and enjoy the true origins of words.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Wilton debunks the most persistently wrong word histories and gives the real stories behind perennial mis-etymologized words.
About the Author
David Wilton, a writer, lives in California. He runs the popular website Wordorigins.org.
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