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Word Origins ... and How We Know Them: Etymology for Everyone

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9780195161472: Word Origins ... and How We Know Them: Etymology for Everyone
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"Millions of people want to know the origin of the words they use. Word columns in daily newspapers and numerous books attempt to satisfy their curiosity. Word histories are usually digested like pills: the user is interested in getting well, not in the chemistry of the prescribed medication. Those who send letters to the Editor also want a straight answer without bothering about how "editors" come by their knowledge. Therefore, they fail to realize that etymologies are seldom definitive and that the science of etymology is intensely interesting. Perhaps if someone explained to them that, compared to the drama of words, Hamlet is a light farce, they might develop a more informed attitude toward philological research and become students of historical linguistics rather than gullible consumers of journalists' pap."

This is how Anatoly Liberman begins Etymology for Everyone, the only guide to the science and process of etymology for the layperson. This funny, charming, and conversational book not only tells the known origins of hundreds of words, but also shows how their origins were determined. Liberman, a world-renowned etymologist, takes the reader by the hand and explains the many ways that English words can be made, and the many ways in which etymologists try to unearth the origins of words.

Part history, part how-to, and completely entertaining, Etymology for Everyone invites readers behind the scenes to watch an etymologist at work.

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Review:

"Word Origins is chock full of intriguing, accessible insights into how our language has evolved, mutated and otherwise morphed over thousands of years."--Pulse "The erudite and winsome Liberman explains his work as an etymologist, which includes historical cases to crack and tall tales to debunk."--Chicago Tribune "While Anatoly Liberman's study of the English language covers such interesting topics as sound-imitative words, compounds, coinages, and borrowings, it does so in a way that actually manages to be dense and scholarly and tongue-in-cheek and amusing, all at the same time."--Library Media Connection "Those seriously interested in the origins of our language, who actively want to find out more about the way etymologists work, and who along the way don't mind taking in some sobering guidance on the pitfalls of ferreting out word histories."--World Wide Words "As a sideline to his long ongoing work on a new etymological dictionary of English, Liberman enlightens general readers...about the challenges faced by etymologists in tracing word origins and evolved meanins. His explanations cover philosophical musings, historical debates in the field, and words imitating sounds."--Reference & Research Book News "It may sound simple, but etymology -- the study of word origins -- is in fact murky and tedious, if unfailingly fascinating. Liberman's book is an examination of the process of determining how a word originated, and it shows how complex his craft can be."--Chicago Tribune

About the Author:

Anatoly Liberman is a Fesler-Lampert Professor of the Humanities at the University of Minnesota. For the past fourteen years, he has been working on a new etymological dictionary of English. He lives in Minneapolis.

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