Wednesday, 16 November 2011


I sometimes get sent to read a book that doesn't fit with but that I want to tell the world about. Such a book is The Etymologicon.

I ought to get a disclaimer out of the way - this title is published by Icon, the same people who publish my Inflight Science, but don't worry, I've slagged off their books in the past.

As the name sort of suggests, this is a book about where words come from, which as a writer I'm a sucker for - but anyone should find it fun. It's light, entertaining and fascinating. Did you know for instance that 'pool' as in pooling resources and playing pool has nothing to do with water and everything to do with chickens (poulets en France).This is really one of those books where you have to fight hard to resist telling anyone in earshot little snippets every five minutes.

Any moans? Just occasionally I lost interest a tad, but it quickly picked up again and the flowing structure of little chapters meant that it's easy to just read one more. And one more. And another. Someone I spoke to who had already read it made a big thing of the way the end of each mini-chapter leads into the next one (ending up pointing back to the first chapter, hence the 'circular stroll' in the subtitle). I actually found this the least endearing part of the book - I found these links forced and unnecessary. But it just shows, you can't please all the people all the time.

In its rather handsome small hardback form (no dustcover, though) it's clearly intended as a gift book - and is going to make a great one - but this is also a book I would consider unashamedly buying for yourself. If you like words, it's for you.

You can see more about the book at or and for Kindle readers here in the UK and here in the US.

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