Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language

The pool in "Gene Pool", "Pooling resource" and similar usages is not related to a "Swimming pool" at all, but instead comes from the French word for chicken. Etymologicon has an exploitative, stream of conscious style that works perfectly for the subject matter. The author takes some words and gradually moves through their evolution, and in the process runs into some other interesting words. These are explored and then related to something else. Each individual group of words is an interesting read on its own. The masterwork, however, is being able to relate them all together. He also takes time to delve into some linguistic influenced history. (The Anglo-Saxon takeover of the Celt lands seemed to be an all-out attack - or peaceful coexistence. Indo-Europeans spread out in many directions with their language.) The history leaves some interesting names that sometimes are merely multiple versions of the same word in different languages. (Some placenames would be translated "Hill Hill Hill".) Neverland comes from Peter Pan by way of a part of Australia where the blacks and whites never had contact. The Starbucks name came from Moby Dick. Melville adopted a common name that came about from the Viking invasion before undergoing a number of spelling changes. Some words have changed their meaning over time. Gymnastics comes from the Greek meaning "to exercise naked" It has evolved into a specific type of athletic activity that is now done with clothes on.
There are many other great etymologies in this well written book. I would love for the author to write further follow ups.

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