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Whats in a Word: Fascinating Stories of More Than 350 Everyday Words and Phrases [Paperback]

Webb Garrison
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 12 2000

Here is a fascinating and humorous encyclopedia of more than three hundredwords and phrases and how they have taken on new meanings over time. It is aninformative reference book for the whole family. Whats in a Word? is asequel to Garrisons popular Why You Say It. Indexed.

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Product Description

About the Author

Webb Garrison, formerly associate dean of Emory University and president of McKendree College, wrote more than 55 books, including Civil War Curiosities and Civil War Trivia and Fact Book. Before his death in 2000, Garrison lived in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina.

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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars
3.0 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars For the masses only May 7 2004
By A Customer
This book is seriously marred by several factual and etymological errors. If you are serious about language and etymology, stick with something more interesting, like the dictionary.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Alrighty then. Feb. 23 2011
My first review.: kinda rusty. Thankfully, the book was worse. Don't get me wrong. Cool idea.; A lot of interesting stuff. But frankly, it is useless. When I say useless I don't mean I didn't learn anything. What I am saying is it does not seem to fulfill its purpose. The fact is, its not a very fascinating read. So no, it's not a recommended page-turner. It is also hardly a comprehensive resource either. So what is it? I don't know.
In addition, some of the etymology is weak. Perhaps it's just me. I don't claim to know any better than the next guy the origin of the widow's peak, or any of the other 350 phrases, but it seems to me that the origins have a bit more'substance.
Perhaps it wasn't totally worthless, I could after all pass it on as a crappy birthday gift. More then likely it will end up at goodwill to be picked up by another sorry soul. So I won't go as far as to say it's a waste of paper, but I believe I put paper to better use in the bathroom. So a recommendation to Mr. Garrison, do a bit more research. To book sneeze: thanks for the paper.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting March 25 2010
As this is my first BooksSneeze review I have to admit a predisposition to lean over backward (see chapter on legalese entitled Legal Talk) not to make my report too favorable. At first this seemed to be no big feat, as the first section High Technology and the Computer Age was, in my opinion severely lacking in new information. This section explained such common words as, computer, virus, email, floppies and bookmark. I know, right? Still even this chapter was not completely devoid of interesting tidbits. On the other side of the computer basics chapter it all turned around and I have to say this was a very interesting read.

To be fair, many of the phrases explained seem, to my mind, to be out of common speech, but there are many more which you might hear everyday.

I was particularly interested in the sports and recreation section; I felt that this one in particular proliferated in phrases that at one time or another, I have wondered about their origins. Others, I thought I had deduced their probable origins, but was way off.

I am looking forward to leaving it worth my grandmother sometime this week as she is very interested in looking at it, from what little I've told her about it.
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3.0 out of 5 stars What's in a Word? March 20 2010
Whats in a word? Webb Garrison uses this quick, easy to read book to help explain the wheres and whys of our English language. Let's face it, English is sometimes hard to understand. We have bucket loads of idioms, coloquial phrases, and words that are used even when most of us don't know where they came from or why we started using them.

I love words. I am constantly fascinated with the way our language shifts and changes. I also have a bit of fun teasing my students about not understanding the source of the things they say. This book is a collection of words and phrases you may not know the origins of. I did enjoy learning about most of these words, but sadly, some are out of date. The section of computers/ technology is completely obsolete...anyone under 30 has probably never heard some of these terms, let alone want to know where it came from.

This collection of words and phrases would be great, light reading for word geeks and students. It also strikes me as a good read for people who love trivia.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.1 out of 5 stars  25 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars For the masses only May 7 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
This book is seriously marred by several factual and etymological errors. If you are serious about language and etymology, stick with something more interesting, like the dictionary.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Keep it in the Bathroom May 20 2010
By T. Suddarth - Published on Amazon.com
While studying Spanish in college, I became interested in the little idiomatic phrases (actually insults) that don't really translate into English. Even after years of classes, they're really all I can remember. If I get lost sometime in a Spanish-speaking country, all I could do is just insult the people trying to help me. It would be a disaster.

That's why when I heard about the book. What's in a Word?, I was pretty excited. Unfortunately it didn't take long for my excitement to deflate.

What's in a Word? is a collection of short entries explaining the origins of words or phrases you hear in everyday speech. If you share my fascination with the origin of those odd phrases, this book might be for you more than it was for me.

It isn't so much that the book isn't well written. I found the individual stories for each entry to be sly, witty, and occasionally rather clever. It's just that many of the "fascinating stories" are kind of mundane (In the Groove), obscure (Best Bib and Tucker) or out-of-date (Floppies). An updated version of the first chapter in a revised edition would go a long way to making the book a better read. For now, though, it's short entries means it's the kind of book you'll want to keep in the bathroom for quick reads.

Disclosure of Material Connection:
I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their [...] book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC's "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
4.0 out of 5 stars bought as a gift Dec 26 2013
By Hose Nose - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The young daughter of a friend of mine seemed to enjoy the book and still has it sitting on her bookshelf, so I guess it must have been a good gift. I flipped through it prior to wrapping it and found the entries quite interesting & amusing.
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting April 4 2011
By that chick that reads - Published on Amazon.com
This is actually one of my favorite books right now! It's crazy how our language and way of saying things has changed so much over the years. For example: Lingerie back in day was just a type of linen that was made for dresses but women liked the feel of it on their skin, thus now it became attached to intimate wear! It's honestly insightful and very interesting, especially when you skim through it instead of reading it cover to cover! This book takes the words that we know now and takes them back to their original origin. It's so interesting to find out just how different our language has turned just over a couple of centuries. The explanations are short and to the point, which is why it kept me so interested! They don't drag on and on telling you every single thing about the word but the most interesting thing. I mean it's a little outdated just because of the different terminology, like the word floppy disk (which I doubt many of us remember what those are anymore). If you like books about the meaning of things or just some cool facts and stuff, then you would def enjoy this book! I give it 3 out of 5 paws!
3.0 out of 5 stars great to read in small chunks Aug. 11 2010
By Heather Kelm - Published on Amazon.com
The little things we say in society, even more so when you travel to different regions of the USA have always fascinated me. My great grandma always says, "for crying out loud". Now my Dad and daughter say this. But when asked, they don't know why, except that my Nana says it. Where does this word come from? Why do people say it?

That's when I came across the book, "What's in a Word?" It's a book of short entries separated by categories. I found that it was slightly outdated (with the computer genre). I'm sure most of us aren't very interested in where the word "floppy disk" came from. Many of us don't even remember what a floppy disk is! I did find the stories fun to read if you jumped around and read random passages. It was interesting to learn the history of common phrases we use.

When I first started to read this book, I tried to read it like a novel - entry after entry in the same category. I found this mind numbing and boring. But for some fun facts and random trivia, grab this book and skip around. Find something that catches your attention and read on. It's a great book to keep by the couch, bedside or in the bathroom.
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