Ballyhoo, Buckaroo, and Spuds

Ingenious Tales of Words and Their Origins

By Quinion, Michael

Publishers Summary:
A wonderfully entertaining romp through the English language by the OED's lexicographer. The cat's pajamas, the bee's knees, and the whole nine yards rolled into one, this true feast for wordlovers delightfully skewers commonly accepted word origin myths and etymological "folk tales." The real story of a word or phrase's origin and evolution is often much stranger—and much more humorous—than the commonly accepted one; the many entries will certainly leave you "happy as a clam." Happy as a clam? Really—what's so happy about being a clam? The saying makes much more sense when it's paired with its missing second half: "at high water." Now a clam at high water is a safe clam, and thus a happy clam. The confusion surrounding the word "kangaroo" caused so much trouble that the Aborigines thought this English word meant any edible animal; they asked whether the cattle being unloaded from ships were kangaroos. From the bawdy to the sublime, Quinion's explanations and delightful asides truly prove that the "proof is in the pudding."

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ISBN
978-1-58834-219-5
Publisher
Smithsonian Books


REVIEWS

Library Journal

Reviewed on November 15, 2004

Folk etymology, namely, stories describing word origins, takes the stage as Quinion narrates and evaluates competing explanations of a word's or phrase's evolution. A contributor to the venerable OED , Quinion offers amusing anecdotes, pieces of linguistic history, and a glimpse of how linguists judge evidence. Reveling in inventive, though inaccura...Log In or Sign Up to Read More

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