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The Word Detective: Solving the Mysteries Behind Those Pesky Words and…

by Evan Morris

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1523143,792 (3.68)1
Comic, skeptic, cyber-sleuth, syndicated columnist, and inspired wordsmith, Evan Morris is the Word Detective. He's an etymologist with a sense of humor, a lexicographer with an attitude. Morris's unique approach to language and his distinctive brand of absurdity have found a loyal following of readers curious about everything from soup to nuts--and that means the origins of the phrase soup to nuts, and thousands more words and phrases. This book is a collection of 150 of Morris's language columns, which appear in newspapers throughout the country and on his popular Web site. A clueless husband writes the WORD DETECTIVE to ask if his wife has insulted him by calling him gormless. Coworkers write to settle a watercooler dispute about the logic of feed a cold, starve a fever. The Word Detective snoops around, follows the leads, and uncovers the answers. The book is chock-full of fascinating lore about the origins and uses of the English language and includes special sections exploring groups of words such as euphemisms, eponyms, and onomatopoeic forms. Funny and offbeat, clever and curmudgeonly, irreverent and irritable, this detective is for all of us who appreciate a dash of wit with our words.… (more)
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The dust jacket describes this work as “a collection of Morris’s language columns, which appear in newspapers around the world and on his popular Web site. The Q&A format makes for lively and unusual interactions between Morris and his readers. …This little book is chock-full of fascinating lore about the origins and uses of the English language…

What can I say that isn’t already covered by the dust jacket? It’s more than just a collection, it’s a handy reference tool, covering everything from soup to nuts – well, maybe not everything, but quite a lot, beginning with amok and ending with zarf.

I used to love to read encyclopedias and dictionaries. I’d open a volume to a random page and just start reading. I found it enlightening and relaxing – a great break from (or way to avoid) studying whatever I was supposed to be studying. And what teacher/librarian/parent would scold me for looking something up in the dictionary? Those of us who love language and words will find plenty to delight, intrigue and tickle our fancies (whatever THAT phrase means – it’s not covered in this volume). Still, a little goes a long way, and reading it cover to cover as I did for a challenge meant that I grew bored.
( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 13, 2016 |
It's a bit snarky for me. Humorous compendium of faux questions/answers about the origin of words. ( )
  KarenIrelandPhillips | Jul 12, 2014 |
The Word Detective is Evan Morris' newspaper column and web site, devoted to finding out where different words and phrases originate. This book is a collection of his columns, but basically reads like a dictionary of curious sayings.

Morris has a light, humorous tone, which makes reading this book a fun experience. Well, if you read through the book at one sitting, you'll probably get a bit tired of his mock replies, followed by "just kidding, here's the real thing". Still, I like his style.

What comes to the content, the book is indeed a nice collection of strange words and phrases, explained usually in a rather satisfying way. Any etymology fans should definitely read this book, unless they've been closely following Morris' column and web site.

(Original review at my review blog.) ( )
  msaari | Nov 7, 2007 |
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Comic, skeptic, cyber-sleuth, syndicated columnist, and inspired wordsmith, Evan Morris is the Word Detective. He's an etymologist with a sense of humor, a lexicographer with an attitude. Morris's unique approach to language and his distinctive brand of absurdity have found a loyal following of readers curious about everything from soup to nuts--and that means the origins of the phrase soup to nuts, and thousands more words and phrases. This book is a collection of 150 of Morris's language columns, which appear in newspapers throughout the country and on his popular Web site. A clueless husband writes the WORD DETECTIVE to ask if his wife has insulted him by calling him gormless. Coworkers write to settle a watercooler dispute about the logic of feed a cold, starve a fever. The Word Detective snoops around, follows the leads, and uncovers the answers. The book is chock-full of fascinating lore about the origins and uses of the English language and includes special sections exploring groups of words such as euphemisms, eponyms, and onomatopoeic forms. Funny and offbeat, clever and curmudgeonly, irreverent and irritable, this detective is for all of us who appreciate a dash of wit with our words.

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