Friday, December 31, 2010

Book Review: What's in a Word?

A posthumous republication of a book about word origins seems a strange offering for a book review program from a publisher known mainly for popular books about Christianity, but etymology interests me, so I ordered a copy. Unlike many word-origin books, What's In a Word? by Webb Garrison is not arranged alphabetically, but rather by categories of origin (Sports & Recreation, Military, Education, etc.). This organization makes the book easier to read cover to cover, but it is still best read in snippets, so it took me months to complete.

Individual entries are written for a general audience, but some seem obvious (a computer mouse is so called because it looks like the animal) and some out of touch (“any attendant or suitor is often termed a beau in the 21st century”). Some terms were new to me (“bread-and-butter note,” “curtain lecture”), and others are defined differently from what is common use (“dyed in the wool” as “high-quality goods” rather than a quality or belief that is part of a person’s core being). But overall, What’s in a Word? was an interesting book and is one I’ll likely keep for reference for my curiosity about word and phrase origins.

This review is written as part of Thomas Nelson’s BookSneeze reviewing program: If you have a blog and love to read, check it out.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Shannon,

    I often check etymologies, too, so thanks for the review of this book.



Thanks for your comments! Agree or disagree, but please comment respectfully.