Espy's pulled out another file folder and tidied up the contents for public viewing. Herein: the blithely annotated origins...

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THOU IMPROPER, THOU UNCOMMON NOUN

Espy's pulled out another file folder and tidied up the contents for public viewing. Herein: the blithely annotated origins of proper-to-common nouns like Jezebel, Jumbo, and Mason jars; eggs Benedict and charley horse; boycotts, bogeys, and donnybrooks. Or, officially, An Etymology of Words That Once Were Names. Espy is the deft hand who juggled another set of oranges into the popular Almanac of Words at Play (1976); this has the same sportiveness, although it's less consistently entertaining. You'll learn how suede comes from Swedish, filbert from a saint, and mesmerism from the doctor, and you can enjoy speculations on Susy of the Susy-Q, Maria and Juana of marijuana. There are limericks, mavericks, and patient Griseldas along with Espy's puckish witticisms. ""The Mortises report that Scottish weavers once named four new shirt fabrics after great universities: Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, and Yale. The last three shirtings have long vanished. Oxford, though, has not only hung onto its shirt but added shoes and trousers."" Friend Timothy Dickinson, walking dictionary and relentless modifier, appears now and then to amend the proceedings--a stylistic necessity. But Espy offers enough of his own bon mots to please all comers--old faithfuls and Johnny-come-latelies.

Pub Date: Dec. 20, 1978

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Clarkson N. Potter--dist. by Crown

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1978