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The Etymologicon

by Mark Forsyth

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A book about words, where they come from, how their use has evolved, and how interconnected they all are. Sounds brilliant? So why only three stars – what’s not to like? Well…. it’s a bit all over the place, albeit by design. Each short section is maybe two or three pages, and covers a few related words, with anecdotes and jokes and origin stories and links to other curiosities.

In the end, it was a bit like being trapped at a party by a very smart person, who was entirely happy to show how smart they were, thirty-two times in a row. Each individual instance was entertaining, just the overall effect did not make a great book. I confess I had to put it beside the loo and read it in brief bursts, to preserve my sanity. Fun, but not quite as much fun as I’d hoped.