Posted by: billpurdue | September 30, 2012

Word origins and countries that are no longer exist

If the origins of words fascinate you, then you will love The Etymologicon by Mark Forsyth (aka The Inky Fool). It’s a collection of articles from Forsyth’s blog entitled “The Inky Fool”, in which he writes about the almost unbelievable connections between different words in the English language and their origins, changes of meaning and so on.


So, for example Forsyth tells us why a score of one over par in golf is called a bogey and why this name originated in Great Yarmouth, why the difference between black and white in days gone by was not, well, black and white as you might say and the connection between botox and mouldy sausages. If you’d like more where that came from, then you will enjoy this witty ramble through the oddities of the English language and occasionally some other languages too.

[Icon Books £12.99 978-1848313071)


Now Mark Forsyth has written The Horologicon: a day’s Jaunt through the Lost Words of the English language ,which is out at the beginning of November. It’s described as “a book of weird words for familiar situations”, starting with waking up in the morning to when you go to bed at night. I think I’ll need to see this one.

(Icon Books £12.99 978-1848314153)


Lost in History

I’ve also been having a quick browse through a hefty tome about some of the kingdoms and other countries in Europe that have come and gone. Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe by Norman Davies looks at several European countries that no longer exist, from some that barely outlasted the Dark Ages to the very recent such as the USSR.


Each country/duchy/kingdom or whatever it qualifies to be called is given a “three part “ treatment: what the area is like today, the history that the author wishes to cover and how well the country is remembered today. I was particularly taken with a country whose ‘capital’ was based at Dumbarton Rock in Scotland and was called Alt Clud (or Clut), the ancient Kingdom of Strathclyde, which lasted until the 12th Century. Unfortunately I had to return the book to the library as it was requested by another reader. It took a long time to arrive- probably about 6 months after I requested it myself – so I was a bit disappointed, but then at £30, the library couldn’t buy many copies. Still, it’s out in paperback this week, so I might consider splashing out. The writing is a bit on the academic side, but still very readable. (The cover image is of the paperback edition)

[Penguin £12.99 pbk 978-0141048864, to be published 4th Oct]


I’m reading…

…and enjoying The Austerity Olympics: When the Games Came to London in 1948 by Janie Hampton. More about that in a future posting.


.. and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Deity by Steven Dunne, a detective novel set in the Derby. I’ll be writing more about that book in my Chad column for the end of October.


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