|Book of the Month|
|The Merriam-Webster New Book of |
Etymology is the study of where words came from, and how they came to be used as they are today. However, Massachusetts publishers Merriam-Webster decided that rather than produce an etymological dictionary (there are some good ones already on the internet) they would instead select some 1500 of the most interesting words and tell their stories. Because the description of these words has been made easier for non-specialists to understand, this is not really an etymological dictionary. As the name of the book says, this is a collection of 'word histories', from 'Abigail' and 'abound' (from the Latin 'to rise in waves') to 'zygote' a biological term which originally described how oxen were joined together at the plough.
This book is neither one thing nor the other. It is not comprehensive enough to used as a dictionary, but neither does the text flow enough for it to be read as a text. However some 600 of the entries are long enough to count as articles and these are both easy to read and often fascinating. For example we learn that the formal dress called a 'tuxedo' comes originally from the American Indian word for 'wolf'. Young men in an upper-class New York area called Tuxedo Park first started wearing these particular dinner jackets, and the jackets got their name from the area.
Who is this book for? A language student will find this a valuable aid to vocabulary, as learning about a word helps one to understand it. However because the language is advanced, many students who most need to learn these words will struggle with the vocabulary used to describe them. The book would serve best in a library, or perhaps as light reading while travelling.
|Verdict: Not a dictionary, nor anything else - but interesting.
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