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Thursday, 16 February 2012
The Etymologicon by Mark Forsyth, aka The Inky Fool
It would be folly to attempt a comprehensive review of a book that reviews, meanderingly, select elements of the language of 328 million[i] Germanic Indo-European family members, especially using said language so to do – oh the irony! So, as not to disappoint those who may read more than once, here’s my particular folly, that of ignoring sage[ii] advice in the misguided belief that stubbornness and orneriness in the face of overwhelming reason was in fact the championing of the underdog in all but lost causes in some act of romantic nobleness. No windmill shall remain at which one has not tilted[iii].
What was I saying? Oh yes, The Etymologicon[iv], for that is the work to which I am referring. Of course, persiflage aside, it very much depends on what your expectations are before opening the book as to what you will take from it once you’ve finished. If you’re a devotee of the Inky Fool blog, from which this was constructed, then I am micturating against the prevailing south-easterly. If you happened to hear the Radio 4 serialisation with Hugh Dennis and thus sallied forth to infiltrate a place of purveyance (of such provisions) in order to negotiate the vending of some verbose literature, then you may, like me, have found the presentation a little breathless and the book will be a welcome respite, insomuch as the printed word is a delicacy over which one is able to take one’s time. However, if you were looking for anything but a circular and rather ambulatory stroll through the odd connections of the English language, instead, searching for a Brewer’s or similar reference work, you are likely to be disappointed. Mr Forsyth isn’t heavy on the footnotes and references, indeed falling back on a blanket “check out these sites at which I found out most of the things I know and have conveyed herein”[v] reference to take care of the details.
No matter, as what one finds in any case is really rather quite good, and again, fanatics need read no further lest they be insulted by my lack of hyperbole masquerading as fact, as what Mr Forsyth offers is a smorgasbord of tasty etymological nuggets, with a delicious cheesy fondue[vi] in which to dip them. Snack as you wish, or gorge outright, you will not really want to do anything but tell your long-suffering spouse all about every single entry to the point where he or she breaks and cancels your credit cards, shoots the dog and torches the house, parked across the street watching the flames climb higher, all Halloween orange and chimney red[vii].
Give it a punt. Sorry, a Dennis. Sorry, I should keep the puns on Twitter. Sorry.
[i] Correct as of 16th February 2012 if correct is the right word to use of any information lifted without proofing from Wikipedia
[ii] From Middle English, coming itself from the Latin - via Old French – sapere meaning to be wise, and not, as my friend once pointed out, smelly herbs often found on pork
[iii] That sentence just made my top twenty-six of my worst sounding but grammatically correct sentences
[iv] And not The Entymologicon, which was a terrifying journey into the world of some very scary mini-beasts and one not recommended by this reviewer for anyone of a nervous or paranoid disposition
[v] Sorry, but my dad still has my copy, so I couldn’t quote from the references page at the back and therefore came up with a paraphrased version that suitably conveys the message, I think
[vi] Apologies to anyone who quite rightly spots the ongoing influence of The Cheese Shop sketch in this review – I solemnly promise to never watch Monty Python sketches on YouTube before attempting a quasi-serious review again
[vii] Sorry, Tom Waits on the iPod...