13 October 2004

From the Bookshelf: The Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology

(The "From the Bookshelf" entries will be favorite books that are part of our library, but have not necessarily been read recently.)

Although I have not read this book in it's entirety, it is one of my favorites. I don't know enough about etymology to say that this the perfect book on words or to comment on the level of scholarship. However, we have really enjoyed it and have found it to be very useful when we are curious about the etymology of a word. We use it enough to have actually dragged it across the Atlantic so we'd have it available during our time in the UK. (And this was no small feat considering the book is three inches thick and heavy.)

Publisher's summary:
As all lovers of language know, words are the source of our very understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

Often, however, our use of language is so automatic that we neglect to consider where those words came from and what they assume. What are the implications, beyond the simple dictionary definitions, of using words such as privilege, hysteria, seminal, and gyp?

Browsing through the pages of The Barhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology is like exploring the historical, political, and rhetorical wonderland of our linguistic heritage. We see the evolution of ideas, as rootword connections that now seem arbitrary are traced to schools of thought from the past. We also find an opportunity to examine how the sometimes backwards, sometimes hilarious, and sometimes illuminating ideologies built into our language affect our modern thinking.

Written in a fresh, accessible style, this book provides the derivations of over 21,000 English-language words without resorting to the use of abbreviations, symbols, or technical terminology. Drawing on the most current American scholarship, and focusing on the core words in contemporary English, The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology is both a diverting browse and a thinking person's Bible.

To buy from amazon, click here: Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology

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