Devious Derivations: Popular Misconceptions, and More Than 1,000 True Origins of Common Words and Phrases
In this new book, word maven Hugh Rawson brings you a marvelously entertaining roundup of 1,000 spurious etymologies, then enlightens you with their genuine counterparts. Some wiseacre (which, by the way, has nothing to do with land measure) may have told you that a tip is something you give a waiter "to insure promptness", or that James I once knighted a remarkable side of beef, saying, "Arise, Sir Loin", but like hundreds of oft-repeated accounts of word origins, they're just too good to be true. People, it seems, are etymologizing creatures, and if a certain lexical lineage is unclear, they are sure to invent one. If you hear that pumpernickel was named by Napoleon Bonaparte, who, upon being served the dark German bread, derided it as "pain pour Nicol" (bread for his horse, Nicol), you can take it with a grain of salt (which since 1647 has been making questionable tales, like questionable meat, more palatable). With his third book, Hugh Rawson pulls off the literary equivalent of a hat trick (which is original not to ice hockey, it turns out, but to cricket).
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This was foreshadowed, however, by the use of guinea pig to mean a
midshipman in the East Indian service, as in "He sent his nephew at the age of
fourteen, on a voyage as a Guinea-pig" (Adventures of a Kidnapped Orphan,
1747). gung ho.
"Gung, meaning 'work'; Ho, meaning 'harmony.' Gung Ho! 'Work Together!' That is
the end result of ethical indoctrination." (Michael Blankfort, The Big Yankee: The
Life of Carlson of the Raiders, 1947) Carlson's knowledge of Chinese was far ...
"My motto caught on and they began to call themselves the Gung Ho Battalion,"
Carlson told Life magazine (9/20/43). "When I designed a field jacket to replace
the bulky and orthodox pack, they called it the Gung Ho jacket. And they named ...
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Devious derivations: popular misconceptions--and more than 1, 000 true origins of common words and phrasesUser Review - Not Available - Book Verdict
If William Safire and David Letterman ever collaborate on a book about words, this could be their model. Beginning with adulteress (erroneously attributed to an au pair who called grown men "adults ... Read full review