From Publishers Weekly
English-speakers, especially Americans, are sometimes criticized because so many speak only one language, but in truth, English is a tongue composed of many others. Probably no one knows this better than those for whom etymology is their livelihood, such as these dictionary editors, and they draw on their collective experience of hunting down word origins, whether historical or linguistic, to produce this entertaining volume. Even those who arent wordy types may wonder where words like "namby-pamby," "milquetoast" and "hamburger" came from, and the explanations dont disappoint: poet Henry Carey first coined the term "namby-pamby" to make fun of 18th-century poet Ambrose Philips ("amby" standing for Ambrose); "milquetoast" derives from an English comic strip depicting a timid, retiring man named after a bland food; and "hamburger" comes from "a form of pounded beef called Hamburg steak" that people ate in (where else?) Hamburg, Germany. The brief introductory pages of general language history are somewhat dry, but the tone elsewhere is conversational and rarely technical. Some of the entries have straightforward histories that make one question their inclusion ("asparagus" and "iconoclast" are inherited from Latin and Greek respectively), or are hard to even really consider English (like "ciao" and "maharajah"), but often even then the editors include historical tidbits that add interest. Lovers of language, history and literature should appreciate this book, which is much easier to read and more intriguing than the etymological notes found in a regular dictionary.
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