Friday 26 August 2011

The Etymologicon

Ladies and gentlemen, I give unto you Inky Fool - The Book! The Etymologicon!

Yes, our little blog will finally be available in bookshops all over the English speaking world so that you, dear reader, so that you can brandish it and cherish it and use to intimidate your friends or prop up an unstable table. We shall emerge from our furtive Internet cave into the bright sunshine of ink and paper.

For months I have been beavering away on The Etymologicon - A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language. All my finest fancies and most recondite research has been held back and stored up in a beautiful, beautiful book.

So, though I say that the blog's become a book, it's almost all new stuff with occasional posts woven into the weft and woof.
Basically, it's about the links between words and phrases that you never knew about: the etymological connection between the Rolling Stones and Elizabethan horticulture or between California and the Caliphate. It's like this blog, but you can give it as a Christmas present.

It will be coming out in Britain from Icon Books, in North America from Corinthian and from somebody else in Australasia, and I think even India (although I must do some more research). Moreover, it has a beautiful red cloth cover and the title is in gold and it is, in short, the most beautiful thing that has ever been devised by man, beast or deity.

It's released on November the third just in time for all your Christmas shopping, but you can (and will) pre-order it now. It's on Amazon. Just click this link.

And, in case you were wondering, an etymologicon is a book that contains etymologies, as in Milton's line:

So that they who are so exact for the letter shall be dealt with by the Lexicon, and the Etymologicon too if they please...

Just because it's so damned beautiful.


  1. Replies
    1. My name is Max Oppenheimer, Jr. taught languages (Spanish, German, French, Russian, English)at 8 universities UCLA, UnivSoutCal, San Diego State, Washington U St Louis, FSU, SUNY at Fredonia, NY, China at Yunnan Normal U. I hold degrees from BA U of Paris, France. NYU, UCLA, USC, Army 3 year Russian course, I have written 3 books on Etymology (Is that what it Means) and some 500 articles on language. I still write on etymology for Sun City Az Daily News Sun and monthly for MENSA monthly Phoenix Bulletin. I just read Etymologicon. I shall henceforth refer to it as an example on to to write on word eymologies. One must go much farther than Fosyth. You don't sup with Gunilde for gun, you go what Gun, Gunrr, etc.. eans. His book needs editing. Mrs Krupp did not give the name to Die Dicke (NOT Dick) Beetrha. Forsyth is no scholar. He may amuse people that do not know languages, but not me.I am sorry at my age (96 on July 27, 2013) to see such books pass for scholarship. You can find my bio in Who's Who.I am the guy who landed on D-Day and translated then broadcast the surrender terms for Cherbourg into German and French and did 3 1/2 years of Iron Curtain defector interrogation fo CIA, started first Russian studies at FSU and first Russian deot. in Iowa. I favor sound scholarship and practice it

    2. Thank you, Max, but I don't feel your comments are fair. I don't know the degree to which Mr. Forsyth considers himself an academic, but I certainly wasn't aware that he was attempting to sell this book as a basis for a sound academic grounding in etymology and wordsmithery ( I jest ).

      Regardless of whether or not it amuses me, I imagine that for many others like me, this book has taken what has been a passing but lifelong interest in words, their origins and their journeys; and given many examples we may have struggled to find otherwise. Some younger readers may even feel enough of a platform to pursue the interest more keenly, even academically.

      I am now interested in you as a scholar on the matter, yet I don't own any of your books and had not heard of you until coming to Mr. Forsyth's blog. Yet, I am grateful for Mr Forsyth for that.

      And, yes, if you ever get round to writing a history of your 94 years, I will be certain to read it, and after that, than Mr Forsyth for this as well.

      After all, it is his writing of this blog, this book, that has caused us both to come here to express a feeling about it.

      There is more value in that, than all the knowledge in the world.

  2. Congratulations. This looks being on my christmas list.

  3. Brilliant! That's definitely a great Christmas present idea. (One of those Christmas presents you buy for someone else and then, oops, it's still on your bookshelf at New Year ...) Anyway, congratulations, as your stuff is quality.

  4. Jolly bloody good. I have pre-ordered on and canny wait. If I'm happy then it's going to be everyone's present for the new year. Well done you.

  5. "and I think even India (although I must do some more research)"
    Well, please complete the research and confirm, you have an assured buyer here in India :)

  6. Well, this is what it currently says at the front of the book.

    Published in the UK in 2011 by
    Icon Books Ltd, Omnibus Business Centre,
    39–41 North Road, London N7 9DP

    Sold in the UK, Europe, South Africa and Asia
    by Faber & Faber Ltd, Bloomsbury House,
    74–77 Great Russell Street,
    London WC1B 3DA or their agents

    Distributed in the UK, Europe, South Africa and Asia
    by TBS Ltd, TBS Distribution Centre, Colchester Road,
    Frating Green, Colchester CO7 7DW

    Published in Australia in 2011 by Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd,
    PO Box 8500, 83 Alexander Street,
    Crows Nest, NSW 2065

    Distributed in Canada by Penguin Books Canada,
    90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700,
    Toronto, Ontario M4P 2YE

    Published in the USA in 2011 by Totem Books
    Inquiries to: Icon Books Ltd, Omnibus Business Centre,
    39–41 North Road, London N7 9DP, UK

    Distributed to the trade in the USA
    by Consortium Book Sales and Distribution
    The Keg House, 34 Thirteenth Avenue NE, Suite 101
    Minneapolis, Minnesota 55413-1007

    Can't say that I thoroughly understand that myself.

  7. Haha, apparently it might have a different title in the US? I don't know, at least the cover is right! Maybe it's too early to be certain and the page just needs to be updated. I'll definitely keep an eye out for it either way!

    I hope they don't change it, I love the cover.

  8. No, Point Blank Check Mate was the old title, now supplanted and usurped by Etymologicon. However, it's taking ages to propagate that around the interweb, I'm afraid.

  9. bought it, read it, loved it!

  10. Hiya Mark! Just been reading your book and it is brilliant! My mum and sister both love it too - they have bought more copies for friends/relatives. Won't look at another avocado in the same way though! Hope you are enjoying your success!

  11. Well what can i say, thank you and thank you again probably the most entertaining thing i've ever read.

  12. I'm Czech and I've noticed that the word 'robot' is explained incorrectly... shame....

  13. So very cool! I will order a copy today!

  14. Any chance of an audio book?

  15. Apologies if this has already been pointed out but I was shown a posting on which looks like it was made to be in the foreword/preface section of the Etymologicon (would that make it the collophon, I wonder)
    The URL is ('Wrong Superhero')

  16. got it as a b-day present and just finished reading it for a 2nd time and i love it

  17. This book is the first non-fiction that I have chosen to read from start to finish, with great interest, intrigue, wonder and enthusiasm!!

    Thanks Mark.... I will review it with great positivity on my facebook group "Two Word Review". (!/groups/108960995906470/)


  18. I really enjoyed the book, but I have to make this comment: coffee beans are native to Southern Asia and tropical Africa, what the Aztecs used as money were cocoa beans. And if you're interested, you can easily see that some common foods come from Mexico because of the ending (it's quite obvious in Spanish):
    cacahuate (peanut)
    jitomate (the Spanish ditched the "ji" -or "xi", which means belly button and gave the rest of the world tomatoes. "Jitomate" means fruit with a belly button, and by the way, the "xi" is the same as in Mexico, which means "in the Moon's navel)

    There are many others, but as they remain within Mexican borders, there is no use mentioning them.

    Thank you for giving me many hours of pleasurable reading. I will certainly read your next book.

  19. Damn you for being right. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

  20. Bought it at the airport, read it, finished the last page and follwed the advice in the last sentence almost finished the second run through. Well done enjoyable, fun and informative.

  21. I was reading the Etymologican, the part about "Salt". Perhaps, it is just a coincidence, but tomate paste is called "salça" in Turkish. You need only two things to make "salça": tomato and lots of salt !!! :)))) Loves from Istanbul, Turkey !!!

  22. I just finished reading your book and I really enjoyed it, just one thing though: in the chapter about 'Fast Bucks and Dead Ones' you refer repeatedly to the fact that the Aztecs used coffee as a sort of currency. Seeing how coffee originates in Ethiopia and was first popularized by the Arabs (hence Coffea arabica) I find this to be highly unlikely. In fact I am fairly certain that that should have been cacao (that was then corrupted into cocoa) beans... and yes that one is native to the region between Mexico and the Amazon and was used as a currency.
    Anyway it is worth noting that, when cacao/cocoa (or coffee) is used as a currency that old saying about how 'money doesn't grow in trees' suddenly sounds like an awful lot of nonsense.
    Thanks for the book, and the blog, I really appreciated it... it's just that I'm a bit of a nitpicker.

    1. Quite right, and it's been changed to cocoa in the reprints. See Uda's comment above. Glad you liked it.

  23. Hey Mark,

    I read youtone of your entry's called Hydrogentlemanly, it was an interesting writing. A lot of words do come from their root meaning, although the word itself is not literal, which is kind of confusing to understand, but in a way that still makes sense? Haha, overall I really enjoyed it!

    -Esteban Gonzalez