Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends

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Oxford University Press, Dec 2, 2004 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 221 pages
49 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.
  

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Review: Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends

User Review  - Goodreads

I think the book does little to actually debunk any linguistic urban legends. In almost every case, the author's conclusion is that no one really knows how such-and-such word came about; we just know ... Read full review

Review: Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends

User Review  - Goodreads

It's been awhile since I've read a book about stuff like grammar and linguistics, but this seemed like it would be a nice, fun title to dig into. So lets talk about the positives. First - this is a ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
1
1 Debunking the Big Boys
23
2 The Elizabethan Email Hoax
61
3 Posh Phat Pommies
79
4 Canoe
103
5 Hookers Harlots and Condoms
129
6 The Perils of Political Correctness
155
7 Wax Tadpoles and Jelly Doughnuts
185
Conclusion
198
Notes
201
Selected Annotated Bibliography
217
Index
219
Copyright

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About the author (2004)


David Wilton, a writer, lives in California. He runs the popular website Wordorigins.org.

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