Take Our Word For It NOE No. 3
Apr 29, 2003 20:14 PDT
Take Our Word For It NOE No. 3
For Mac users who have trouble with our regular homepage:
This is another NOE week (no new TOWFI until next week). For you new
readers, NOE stands for "newsletter-only etymology". Only subscribers to
this newsletter get NOEs. They are not published on the web site and
are not available anywhere else - yet another reason to subscribe to
**This Week's NOE**
Reminder: we are now publishing TOWFI bi-weekly, so every other week we
will send you a NOE to tide you over to the next issue of TOWFI. This
is a NOE week.
Occasionally we will give you a book review (NOEBR*) or web site review
(NOEWSR*) instead of a NOE. This week we review "Weird and Wonderful
Words" edited by Erin McKean and illustrated by Roz Chast. It is
available through Amazon.com and will be in our book store soon if not
this evening (http://www.takeourword.com/bookStore.html).
We must admit that we might not have seen this book had not Martha
Barnette (author of some of our favorite etymological books; one of them
is no. 1 in our book store at the moment: "Dog Days and Dandelions")
alerted us to it. First, of course, she thought it was a great book.
Second, she let us know that *we are in it*! Yes, it's true, there is a
"Webliography" at the end of this book and in it TOWFI is listed. So we
had to have it. But once we received it we were pleasantly surprised by
much more than just our names in print!**
The book is small but not insubstantial and the cover catches one's eye
with its hand-lettered titling and whimsical and humorous illustration.
Additional illustrations of that sort decorate the entire book, breaking
up the potential monotony of entry after entry of words. We say
"potential" because we, of course, do not find those entries monotonous.
They are most entertaining. As the title suggests, these words are
indeed "weird", some of them occurring only once in all of recorded
English! The entries are short but sweet, and the words' origins are
discussed when known. Take "hippotomist", for example. No, this is not
a hippopotamus hypnotist. Instead, it is a horse dissector, from hippo
"horse" and -tomy which derives from Greek temnein meaning "to cut".
Not quite as romantic as one might have expected, but fascinating
The entry for the word "ichthyarchy" is "the domain of the fishes, the
fish-world. A nonce-word used in 1853, but lovely in its ornate
simplicity." This entry seems to indicate that the editor of this book
went through the entire Oxford English Dictionary (and other sources) in
search of her quarry. Wow! She was kind enough in this instance to
suppose that we might be able to figure out the etymology of ichthyarchy
In addition to the word entries, the webliography, and a bibliography,
this book contains an entire section on "How to Create Your Own Weird
and Wonderful Words". You have no idea how often we are asked how to do
just that! Now we can direct inquirers to this book.
If you like strange and unusual, even rare words, and you also enjoy
etymology, not to mention amusing illustrations and instructions on
coining words, this book is for you.
*"Newsletter-Only Etymological Book Review" and "Newsletter-Only
Etymological Web Site Review", respectively.
**(In all fairness, we must mention that Martha Barnette included us in
"Dog Days and Dandelions", too, but we knew we wanted her book long
before we knew we were in it!)
To view the web cam you do have to have Yahoo! Instant Messenger loaded.
You can download it directly from Yahoo!, then using the Instant
Messenger, look for "etymomel". We've been offline for a few days since
the camera does consume a lot of processor power. But we do try to get
the cam online as often as possible.
It seems like everyone is successfully seeing TOWFI on the new server
(except us! Our host company claims it is our ISP's fault. Does anyone
else out there use Yahoo! SBC DSL for their ISP? If so, give us a
We'll be back next week with a new issue of TOWFI and a NOE.
Until next time,
Take Our Word For It!
Melanie and Mike