Wednesday, December 17, 2014

David Wilton - Word Myths: Debunking Linguisitic Urban Legends

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

There are many theories on where words and phrases come from.  Few are entirely correct.   For instance, there’s a certain four-letter word that’s said to stand for Fornication Under Consent of King.  Or is it Fornication Under Command of King?  Or, maybe it’s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.  (No, wait… that last one’s a Van Halen album.)  Whatever your acronym of choice is, you’re wrong.  The word goes way back to a Germanic root.

Word Myths deals with all sorts of urban legends and stories concerning words, terms and phrases.  The whole nine yards is said to have to do with the amount of cloth necessary to make a kimono or a kilt or some other garment.  It may also refer to the length that machine-gun bullets come it, meaning that to go the whole nine yards is to expend all the rounds.  There’s no proof that any of these are true.

The book goes deals with so many different myths that it doesn’t really spend much time on any given term.  At most, you may get a page or two and the pages aren’t really that big.  It doesn’t seem to be meant as an in-depth study of anything.  Instead, it’s more for a casual reader that’s interested in word origins.  (If you want something with more detail, there are other books and movies you might want to look into.  The aforementioned curse word has its own documentary, as does the N word.)

The introduction was a little boring and repetitive.  It took me several false starts to get into the book for that reason.  Once I got past that, it wasn’t so bad, mostly because of the short sections.  That and the small size of the book make for an easy read.  I could see where it would get boring, though.

I apologize for the short review, but there really isn’t much to review.  As it’s nonfiction, there’s no real plot to discus.  The subject matter is pretty basic.  It’s not like I can give you a rundown of characters or a brief plot description.  If I were to go into even a small amount of detail on each myth covered, there would be no point in reading the book.  The best I can do is give you a general idea of what the book is like.

This is one of those books I’d recommend getting from the library rather than buying for yourself.  If you’re going to buy it, get it as a gift for someone else.  Yes, it could be used for reference, but there’s not enough detail on each myth that I think it would be worth it.  I think the overall theme of the book and the message I took from it is to bee a little more skeptical when someone tells you a story or forwards a story to you.  You never know how much of it is true.


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