Review: The Etymologicon by Mark Forsyth


Mark Forsyth explores the reasons behind “the glorious insanities of the English language” by looking at the etymology of words and phrases. Each chapter leads into the next until we are brought back to the beginning again.

This is definitely a book for the layman, it is light in tone with short chapters that might discuss several words and meanings. Serious etymologists will probably be annoyed by the lack of detail and the sketchy bibliography, but for people who are just quite interested in words this is an enjoyable and easy to read introduction to etymology.

Forsyth has a friendly, jokey style of writing which is mostly engaging but occasionally falls flat; saying the invention of the term post-natal “has allowed people to be depressed” is rather dismissive and an unnecessary dig at women in a vulnerable state.

Over all The Etymologicon will interest and entertain, bringing etymology to the masses.


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