You wouldn’t expect a book on the origin of words to be laugh-out-loud funny, would you?
And yet Mark Forsyth manages to do just that in his book “Etymologican – A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language“, treating us to a collection of fascinating facts about the origin of English words and phrases with wit and a wickedly wry sense of humour.
Reading this probably won’t make you an etymological scholar anytime soon (there’s a lot to take in) but it is entertaining, and I particularly love the way Mark deftly links one word or phrase to another, across languages, through the ages, to modern-day usage.
He sets the scene of his book by admitting to an over-enthusastic love of etymology, and a hilarious encounter with a hapless chap who made the mistake of asking where the word biscuit came from.
Etymologican would, in Mark’s words:
“….. (first) rid me of my demons and perhaps save some innocent conversationalist from my clutches. Second, unlike me, a book could be left snugly on the bedside table or beside the lavatory: opened at will and closed at will.”
It’s a fair warning that you are now in the company of a self-confessed obsessive etymologist who always has something more to say.
“There’s always an extra connection, another link that joins two words that most of mankind quite blithely believe to be separate….”
Not only is it a fascinating read, it’s an excellent example of how to enthuse personality into non-fiction writing.
Good writers must be good readers too, so if you are struggling with how to find your unique writing voice, treat yourself to a copy to see how Mark tackles, what might otherwise be a dry and dull subject, with humour, authenticity and flair.
I was hooked from the very first page, and I know you will be too.