Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends
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Word Myths by David Wilton
Book DescriptionDo you "know" that posh comes from an acronym meaning "port out, starboard home"? That "the whole nine yards" comes from (pick one) the length of a WWII gunner's belt; the amount of fabric needed to make a kilt; a sarcastic football expression? That Chicago is called "The Windy City" because of the bloviating habits of its politicians, and not the breeze off the lake? If so, you need this book. David Wilton debunks the most persistently wrong word histories, and gives, to the best of our actual knowledge, the real stories behind these perennially mis-etymologized words. In addition, he explains why these wrong stories are created, disseminated, and persist, even after being corrected time and time again. What makes us cling to these stories, when the truth behind these words and phrases is available, for the most part, at any library or on the Internet? Arranged by chapters, this book avoids a dry A-Z format. Chapters separate misetymologies by kind, including The Perils of Political Correctness (picnics have nothing to do with lynchings), Posh, Phat Pommies (the problems of bacronyming-the desire to make every word into an acronym), and CANOE (which stands for the Conspiracy to Attribute Nautical Origins to Everything). Word Myths corrects long-held and far-flung examples of wrong etymologies, without taking the fun out of etymology itself. It's the best of both worlds: not only do you learn the many wrong stories behind these words, you also learn why and how they are created-and what the real story is.
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Book DetailsISBN: 9780195172843
(215mm x 147mm x 20mm)
Imprint: Oxford University Press Inc
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Publish Date: 23-Oct-2004
Country of Publication: United States
UK Kirkus Review » As a self-confessed word-nerd with a penchant for relating various linguistic stories to anyone who will listen, this exploration of the origins of our most well-known turns of phrase certainly appealed to me. But far from corroborating previous assumptions such as thinking that the well-loved children's rhyme Ring-a-ring a Roses actually refers to the symptoms of the Black Death (a favourite of mine which always raises a few eyebrows and some appreciative noises of interest at the pub), David Wilton's well-structured trawl through linguistic urban legends serves to set the etymological record straight. Using history, chronology and linguistics as his primary tools, he debunks the folklore surrounding everyday expressions, words and eponymous attributions (e.g. assigning the word 'crap' to Thomas Crapper and his invention of the toilet), and provides solid alternative suggestions where no definitive answer can be found. If nothing else, by highlighting the need to exercise judgement in believing what we read or, more often than not, are told, Wilton is also commenting on what these beliefs say about us. In my case, well, I don't think I'm quite ready to give my colourful and fantastical tales up just yet - the problem, as Wilton is well aware, is that the myth is often simply more appealing than the truth. Nevertheless, exploring the linguistic labyrinth that is the origins of English can never be mundane and Wilson's truths make for an interesting and stimulating read. And, of course, they are equally useful nuggets of trivia for Sunday nights at the pub.(Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - David Wilton
David Wilton, a writer, lives in California. He runs the popular website Wordorigins.com.
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