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The Horologicon by Mark Forsyth

The Horologicon (2012)

by Mark Forsyth

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I absolutely love Mark Forsyth's books and this one was the last one I had of his to read. Its focus in on the lost words of the English language and he's broken it down into a parody, of sorts, of a book of hours. We start at 6 a.m. and learn about the words applicable to dawn and waking up, then proceed to travel through the day of work, lunch, shopping, and socialising, ending up in bed at midnight. All done with Forsyth's trademark humour.

Ultimately, I didn't love it as much as his other two books, the Entymologicon and the The Elements of Eloquence but it was still excellent and I highly recommend it for those that just love words.

He's also got a new book out, A Christmas Cornucopia : The Hidden Stories Behind Our Yuletide Traditions, which is, of course, on my To Buy list. ( )
  murderbydeath | Jan 8, 2017 |
A thoroughly entertaining and endearing book, The Horologicon is an attempt by author Mark Forsyth to introduce us to many of the fantastic lesser-known words and phrases in the English language. It sorts these peculiar words into chapters organised by the time of day you might need them (waking up, commuting to work, lunch, etc. - 'horologicon' literally means 'book of hours', Forsyth informs us). However, it is not a pedantic reference work; it is told in an engaging, conversational prose with plenty of humour, well-chosen anecdotes and a clear, infectious enthusiasm for the subject matter. Although Forsyth tries to warn us that it is indeed a reference work, and that we should on no account attempt to read it cover to cover" (pg. 2), I have to say that I did not heed his advice and still found it to be a witty and amiable read. I don't know how many of the words I will remember, but I will certainly endeavour to use the following whenever possible:

-- a meeting without coffee (a serious work meeting, a phrase combining polite "gentleness of phrasing with a subtle and malevolent menace", pp120-1).
-- borborygmi (the rumbling noise made by an empty stomach, p91).
-- eye-servant (an employee who only works when they're being watched, p120).
-- flesh-company and carnal confederacy (having sex, p213).
-- gunfire (British soldier slang for a strong cup of tea, "on the basis that it had the same enlivening effect upon the senses as coming under attack from the enemy", p129).
-- shemozzle (to get out of the way, p140).
-- shturmovshchina (a Russian word meaning to work frantically just before a deadline, having not done any work for the last month, p136. Known to students everywhere as 'cramming').
-- thrumble (the rumbling noise a kettle makes just before it boils, p70).
-- uthceare (an Old English word meaning to lie awake in bed before dawn and worrying, p7)." ( )
  MikeFutcher | Jun 3, 2016 |
I found this very entertaining, a look at some unused words for a variety of tasks throughout the day. It was fun to see how little things change in some areas of life. The list of words for drunkenness was impressive.

It's a book to read over time as well, and while many of the words have already slipped from my mind, I'm sure a few will creep in to my vocabulary occasionally when needed.

Forsyth brings us through a day with words that have lapsed from use. ( )
  wyvernfriend | Feb 17, 2016 |
Mildly amusing. ( )
  sloopjonb | May 24, 2014 |
Somewhat unfortunately, I read this at the same time as the new QI book of 1,227 facts, which included many of the words in this volume, obviously not by total coincidence. It's a fun book, though, with Mark Forsyth's humour as much as or more in evidence than in The Etymologicon. I don't think I'm going to remember many of these words, if any, but they are indeed satisfying and odd, and some of them are undeservedly defunct. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
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Therefore doth Job open his mouth in vain; he multiplieth words without knowledge.
Job 35, verse 16
For my parents
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Tennyson once wrote that:
Words, like Nature, half reveal
And half conceal the soul within.
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A humourous stroll
through the forgotten words of
the English language.

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The Horologicon, which means 'a book of things appropriate to each hour', follows a day in the life of unusual, beautiful and forgotten English words.

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