Review | The Etymologicon – Mark Forsyth


Paperback (Icon Books, 252 pages)

First published 2011; this edition published 2013

Rating on Goodreads: 4 stars

“What is the actual connection between disgruntled and gruntled? What links church organs to organised crime, California to the Caliphate, or brackets to codpieces?

The Etymologicon springs from Mark Forsyth’s Inky Fool blog on the strange connections between words. It’s an occasionally ribald, frequently witty and unerringly erudite guided tour of the secret labyrinth that lurks beneath the English language, taking in monks and monkeys, film buffs and buffaloes, and explaining precisely what the Rolling Stones have to do with gardening.”

Oh, I do love words. And Mark Forsyth has made me remember just how much.

The Etymologicon is clever, hilarious, and I love it. The connections between chapters and words are ingenious, and I came out feeling decidedly more enlightened about the English language.

I’d already read Forsyth’s The Horologicon, (you can find my review here) and The Etymologicon most certainly matched it in terms of brilliance, if not exceeded it. With mad chapter headings such as ‘Sausage Poison In Your Face’ and subheadings such as ‘The Scampering Champion of The Champagne Campaign’, you know you’re in for a roller coaster ride of entertainment.

And the history behind the words included is incredibly fascinating, especially when you are told how words came about and how some words briefly surfaced before vanishing off the face of the earth (see ‘gruntled’, the opposite of the still used ‘disgruntled’). Some words are downright bizarre, others magnificent and others amusing – I think my favourite has to be how ‘assassin’ came into existence, and you’ll have to read it to find out why.

(As a side note, the cover is beautiful; whoever designs Mark Forsyth’s book covers, I want to hug them. So simple, yet so exquisite. Less is definitely more in this case.)

Go out and buy this book. If you’re a word-nerd like me, you’ll adore it.



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