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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mists of classical times.) Actually, bombast comes from the French bom- bace,
cotton padding or wadding, the cloth stuffing serving as a metaphor for the
overblown language. Bombace, in turn, probably came from the Middle Persian
... the thirteenth century, when the word appeared in English, but the basic image
seems to be of the frightened animal that slinks away, tail drooping between its
hind legs, or perhaps to the one that actually turns tail and flees as fast as it can.
Isinglass actually is an import from Holland, linguistically as well as literally,
deriving from the Middle Dutch huysenblas, sturgeon bladder. It appears first in
English as isom glass in a customs regulation of 1545. The m in isom apparently
was a ...
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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