Word origins: -- and how we know them : etymology for everyone

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Oxford University Press, 2005 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 312 pages
6 Reviews
"Millions of people want to know the origin of the words they use. Word columns in daily newspapers and numerous books attempt to satisfy their curiosity. Word histories are usually digested like pills: the user is interested in getting well, not in the chemistry of the prescribed medication. Those who send letters to the Editor also want a straight answer without bothering about how "editors" come by their knowledge. Therefore, they fail to realize that etymologies are seldom definitive and that the science of etymology is intensely interesting. Perhaps if someone explained to them that, compared to the drama of words, Hamlet is a light farce, they might develop a more informed attitude toward philological research and become students of historical linguistics rather than gullible consumers of journalists' pap."--Anatoly Liberman
Word Origins is the only guide to the science and process of etymology for the layperson. This funny, charming, and conversational book not only tells the known origins of hundreds of words, but also shows how their origins were determined. Liberman, an internationally acclaimed etymologist, takes the reader by the hand and explains the many ways that English words can be made, and the many ways in which etymologists try to unearth the origins of words.
Part history, part how-to, and completely entertaining, Word Origins invites readers behind the scenes to watch an etymologist at work.

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Review: Word Origins ... and How We Know Them: Etymology for Everyone

User Review  - Volsung - Goodreads

Very highly recommended; to have such an expert in the field write such readable, witty prose is really exceptional. (In other words, it's enjoyable, approachable, /and/ accurate.) Read full review

Review: Word Origins ... and How We Know Them: Etymology for Everyone

User Review  - Talbot Hook - Goodreads

I can tell that I enjoy the author, as a person. Obviously erudite, he seems unaware, and perhaps a bit Pnin-esque. (An assumption derived from my reading.) The book, let's see. The book, though short ... Read full review


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About the author (2005)

Anatoly Liberman is Professor of the Humanities at the University of Minnesota. For the past seventeen years, he has been working on a new etymological dictionary of English. He lives in Minneapolis.

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