• The Etymologicon

  • A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language
  • By: Mark Forsyth
  • Narrated by: Don Hagen
  • Length: 7 hrs and 1 min
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 03-14-14
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Gildan Media, LLC
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (1,752 ratings)

Regular price: $19.59

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Publisher's Summary

Do you know why…

a mortgage is literally a death pledge? …why guns have girls’ names? …why salt is related to soldier?

You’re about to find out…

The Etymologicon (e-t?-‘mä-lä-ji-kän) is:

*Witty (wi-te\): Full of clever humor

*Erudite (er-?-dit): Showing knowledge

*Ribald (ri-b?ld): Crude, offensive

The Etymologicon is a completely unauthorized guide to the strange underpinnings of the English language. It explains: How you get from “gruntled” to “disgruntled”; why you are absolutely right to believe that your meager salary barely covers “money for salt”; how the biggest chain of coffee shops in the world (hint: Seattle) connects to whaling in Nantucket; and what precisely the Rolling Stones have to do with gardening.

©2012 Mark Forsyth (P)2014 Gildan Media LLC

Critic Reviews

“The stocking filler of the season...how else to describe a book that explains the connection between Dom Perignon and Mein Kampf.” ( The Observer)
“Crikey...this is addictive!” ( The Times)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Why settle for the whole nine yards...

... when everyone knows it takes ten yards to make a first down?

Did you know the word oxymoron is itself an oxymoron? That turkeys are indeed named after the country Turkey (because they were mistaken for Guinea fowl, who do not actually come from Guinea)? That a rolling stone is really a gardening tool that must be kept free of moss (something Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger must no have known)? That feisty came to mean combative because old ladies blamed their flatulence on their lapdogs? That the fierce battlefield tank was so named by Winston Churchill because its original name was too close to a toilet?

Well, if you love words, if you love the English language in all of its robust idiosyncratic glory, if you love to have fun with language, if you want to impress your next cocktail party, win at Trivial Pursuit, or get some extra points when you go on Jeopardy, you'll love Mark Forsyth's answers to these and many other etymological curiosities.

Just to be clear, this Etymologicon is not interested in classroom word roots, nothing as mundane as basic Latin or Greek sources of common words. No, this is how some unusual words or phrases came into being, how some common words evolved from strange roots, and how so many of them are remarkably and improbably interconnected.

Among my favorites in the latter category are contemporary technologies or brand names emerging from unlikely sources -- how one 11th century Danish queen and her consort gave us the word gun and the brand name Bluetooth, how an anonymous Viking in olde England led to the brand name Starbucks, how bugs came to be in computer software (not to mention beds), how Henry the VIII's oversize codpiece still resides on every computer keyboard not once but twice.

What makes it work is the humorous delivery. Some reviewers found the humor not to their liking. I found it an appropriate vehicle for making this book more lively than the kind of dry scholarly material you might expect. The author is no Monty Python (whom he references), some of his punch lines are groaners, but most of his stories are absolutely fascinating.

But sadly, he has no explanation for the whole nine yards (he does not even attempt one), as it remains one of the mysteries of the American idiom, a term for which there is no known etymology.

22 of 23 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Fun

Very clever. The book is disjointed, intentionally so, not being chronological or broken down by source language, yet is entertaining.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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One of my all time favorite books.

Would you listen to The Etymologicon again? Why?

I listen to this book over and over as one would do with a favorite song. I love words, and the fabric this book weaves is fantastic.

26 of 29 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Maddening! Does not work as an audiobook!

I imagine this as the kind of book I'd like to have in the bathroom. Short entries on the origins of words. And I wanted to see the words. See how they are put together. Pay attention to their spelling. Their prefixes. Their suffixes. So much of etymology depends on this. Therefore, it just doesn't work as an audiobook. And while this is a minor point, the author is clearly British. You can tell by many of his references and his overall sense of humor. So why not have a British narrator? There were interesting entries, but as a book (especially an audiobook ) it drove me up the wall.

38 of 43 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Cleverly Intertwined History of Modern Parlance

I can't believe how much fun this book was. Admittedly, I'm a word geek myself and thoroughly enjoy expanding my personal lexicon, but Mark's database of vernacular history embarrasses my grandest expectations of personal knowledge.

Although one might surmise that the subject is dry, the author presents a digestible amount of history on each example and then quickly segues to another; he also seems to be an armature comedian which makes the anecdotes fun.

I listened to this book in one sitting at three times speed while returning from a family vacation. The narrator is excellent and brings the author's personality to life. I gave a four-star overall rating to this book only because I feel I missed some of the finer nuances and innuendos by listening rather than reading this book. I'm going to buy the kindle companion so I can read through it too. But, the audible version is absolutely fantastic and I highly recommend this book to anyone with even an inkling of interest in knowing the etymology of our modern language.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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The Perfect Book for a Word Nerd!!

I loved this book! ...every nerdy word!! I've always been fascinated by our language and how it came to be, and this book answered so many of my questions. Who would have ever thought the word (office) "pool" originated with the French word for "chicken?" Now I know along with the answers to how a hundred others words came to be!

22 of 26 people found this review helpful

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Talking Turkey: Learn Where THAT Comes From...

Where are your hands when you swear? Did you know "gonads" flows into the "Testaments" both Old and New as testifying is based on "testes"?
Seriously.
This is a really, really fun book, but Forsyth isn't kidding when he says it's "A CIRCULAR Stroll." Sometimes it's so circular you forget where you started because where you end up is entirely different. Still, it's a damned fun ride getting there if you're even remotely curious about words.
Hell, not even. It's just funnier 'n all get out.
How about: The partridge gets its name from the fart because it sounds like farting when it flies (or: a "clapping of the buttocks!")
A lengthy section on how to make sheepskin paper, how in the end, after all is said and done, we're left with the shape and size that the kindle is forced to mimic 'cause we're just so damned used to it (ol' Gutenberg used it after all. Well, not the kindle size...?)
After doing a lively business of selling seashells and trinkets, Shell decided to, oh, I dunno, dabble in, petroleum.
This is an enjoyable and lively listen that really makes you think.
Don't expect to zone out. DO expect to laugh

21 of 25 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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A fun book in small doses

Any additional comments?

I should have really enjoyed this book. I have always been fascinated by words and languages and this book has that. However, I did not enjoy the presentation of the materials the way this book was written. The book is presented as a kind of "stream of consciousness." It is a rapid fire "flit" and "flutter" roller coaster ride from word to word to word. I would have enjoyed it much more if it had been more organized, and the author had spent more time in discussion of things in more depth rather than blasting through so much so quickly. For me, this is the kind of book I would sit down with on a day when I don't want to put a lot of thought into anything but just want something fun going on in the background. This is a good book for a 15 minute break, but I could not set out on a long drive and listen to this one from start to finish.

12 of 14 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Funny and Factual

This book is really funny. I mean, it's great for the etymological facts, but the delivery is so entertaining. It was so great I used my credits to get 2 more of Forsyth's books. The narrator is spot on. If you like etymology, this is a must listen!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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great and interesting read that keeps you engaged

this is one of the best books i have ever listened to as it is very informative and full with linguistic knowledge ..

14 of 17 people found this review helpful