I never realized that the scope of the "Complete Idiot" series went much beyond the eminently practical. But now that I think of it, a book like WEIRD WORD ORIGINS makes sense though. Many people are fascinated by etymology (and likely even more are when the term "etymology" is not dropped in favor of a folksier more everyday term like "word origins") is used. This funny, breezy text on word origins is a welcome addition to popular lexicography.
Actually, you could recommend it on several fronts. First there's its impressive diversity. WEIRD WORD ORIGINS includes all KINDS of words (and phrases too). Anything with an interesting history is likely to be included, whether it's of Latin or Greek origin, part of our languages Anglo-Saxon core or a whimsical coinage that gained traction enough to gain permanent (well, nothing in language is REALLY permanent) foothold in the language. More importantly, despite its breezy tone, the book is certainly authoritative. I was already familiar with the origins of many of the words and phrases included in the book, and nothing in WWO failed to jibe with the word histories I already knew. I knew about the origin of "September," for instance, so I'm not going to question author Paul McFedries refutation of some popular misconceptions about a term like "dead ringer," for instance. As he points out, a lot of wrong and wrongheaded linguistic information is spread via the Internet. And the fanciful tale about "dead ringers" being calls for help from people accidentally buried alive is just that--a fanciful tale. And I'll take that on McFedries' authority.
It is actually, McFedries own highly readable and quirkily personable style that is the book's most unique aspect, and one of its most important. Many popular etymology texts affect a conversational style, but this is one where you can actually speak of the author's distinctive voice. You actually feel like you're getting acquainted with the author/editor. There's a real personality organizing all this information, and it's a real pleasure to get to know him.
I love word lore but can't pretend to be more expert than I am, however. Ttere were any number of times when I caught myself saying, "Now why didn't I ever look THAT one up?" Why is a "Bronx cheer" a "raspberry," for instance. Or for that matter, why is it a "Bronx cheer"?? There are plenty of word histories that I just never have gotten around to researching that I am glad to learn about now. McFedries makes it all good fun.