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'Long words bother me' confessed Winnie the Pooh, but the fact is that the short ones are just as problematic. This book is about the craziness of words, and how they can change their meanings in the most unpredictable ways over time. Synonyms can become antonyms and words that sound different can turn into homonyms. They can die for no apparent reason. Any they can't be controlled: today's error is tomorrow's accepted form. But most of all, they are fascinating. How is it, for example, that monks in the Middle Ages were able to call the Virgin Mary buxom and daft without either admiring her figure or impuning her innocence? Why would an Anglo-Saxon warrior have been thrilled if hit by a Viking spear? And why can't sledging be kept off the cricket field?

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780750939737
ISBN-10: 0750939737
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 127mm x 10mm)
Pages: 272
Imprint: Sutton Publishing Ltd
Publisher: The History Press Ltd
Publish Date: 11-Nov-2004
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


UK Kirkus Review » Did you know that the original chauvinist was a military hero, and that monks in the Middle Ages described the Virgin Mary as 'buxom' and 'daft' without implying anything about her figure or intellect? These are just a couple of facts unearthed by Tom Burton in his quest to find the origin and changing meaning of words in the English language. The book's title might imply that this is all about multi-syllable words but in fact Burton finds that a lot of shorter words have their strange ways too. Some of his findings are already well known - for instance, the origins of the words 'sandwich' and 'boycott'. Others are far more obscure and entertaining, and their meanings have changed markedly over the years so that an Anglo-Saxon warrior would declare himself 'thrilled' if hit by a Viking spear, and mean something that today we wouldn't recognise. This is an entertaining book that will be enjoyed by anyone who loves reading about the origin and meaning of words.(Kirkus UK)

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Author Biography - Tom Burton

Tom Burton studied English at the University of Bristol before moving to Australia. He is now a Reader in English at the University of Adelaide, specialising in medieval English literature and the history of the language.