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Word Histories and Mysteries: From Abracadabra to Zeus Paperback – Oct 13 2004

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Amazon.com: 6 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A very fine linquistic survey Feb. 8 2005
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
How do new words enter the English language and dictionaries - and where did some older oddities come from? Plenty of 'word origin' titles are published; the Editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries answer numerous questions about what influences word changes and popularity, providing the stories of over 400 words from all areas of the vocabulary. Word Histories And Mysteries: From Abracadabra To Zeus is a very fine linquistic survey which is especially recommended for 'word origin' fans.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Are You Curious About The Words You Use? Jan. 21 2010
By Ellie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
From A to Z, many common words have an uncommon history and it is fascinating to trace back the origin and the original usage of words we take for granted. With the reputation of the American Heritage Dictionaries, you can be assured that the research and the writing of this book bring high standards with it. It is easy to read, with a good size print; it does not belabor the subject of any one term.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
big hit with my curious daughter Nov. 5 2012
By Cynthia L. Ouellette - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this for my daughter as she is very curious about word origins and mythology. A great addition to her library. Very easy to read. A pick up and put down book... if you know what I mean. She feels the explanations are a bit shallow, not going into depth much, but still fun as a cursory read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Twain would love this! Sept. 24 2012
By Ellen G. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mark Twain found dictionaries to be fascinating reading, but remarked that he couldn't follow the plot. This book provides the plot for many words, some odd, some ordinary. The short (less than a page) entries are like potato chips -- you can't read just one.
14 of 23 people found the following review helpful
I would like to say that it's a little bit dissapointing May 29 2005
By Dan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This paperback compendium of articles on the origins of words has been compiled by the editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries. Among the oddities revealed by its writers are that average derives from an Old French word meaning "damage to shipping", that caprice comes by a devious route from an old Italian word for a hedgehog, that in medieval times deer was the name for any creature, that in Middle English dinner could mean breakfast, that fawn and fetus are etymologically connected, that garage is from a French word whose first sense in that language was a place where one moors one's boat, that junk originally meant old rope ... and so on. Its writers have not shied away from discussing features of some of the most common words, such as a, it and they.

You will also be painlessly introduced to some of the terminology and ideas of etymology, such as back-formation (a word mistakenly formed from another by removing what looks like an ending), folk etymology (popular legends about word origins), metanalysis (a shift in the division between words, as a napron became an apron, metathesis (in which sounds are transposed inside a word, as wops turned into wasp), and melioration (in which over time a word becomes more elevated or positive in meaning). Though not all these terms are explained in the text, there is a glossary at the end of the book.