Even since he was a lad, Maleska (Crossword Puzzle Editor of The New York Times) has been keeping notebooks on ""Words from Mythology,"" ""Spelling Demons,"" ""Nice but Naughty Words,"" ""Eponyms,"" etc. And this large, browse-worthy, but not very useful book is the result--though over two-thirds of it is devoted strictly to etymology: separate chapters for derivations from Greek, Latin, French, Spanish, Anglo-Saxon, and proper names (people and places), plus sections on ""Words from Everywhere"" (""sloop"" comes from the Dutch ""sloep"") and words that are surprisingly consanguineous (""Would you believe that salary and salt are related?""). The rest is a hodgepodge of language-related lists and facts and observations, including: a chapter on clichÃ‰s and epithets associated with animals; a chapter in which little stories are told in ""highfalutin language and are repeated in plain English"" (Weekly Reader-level amusement at best); a chapter on words relating to sex and such (""We have a plethora of synonyms for our posteriors""); and--the only relatively special attraction here--directions on ""How to Construct Crossword Puzzles."" Unfortunately, Maleska offers these hundreds and hundreds of word tidbits with little of the wit or panache one has come to expect from philologers (""lovers of words""). He does contribute an occasional anecdote, a pun or two (painful), many exclamation points, and some end-of-chapter quizzes. But the general tone is as flavorless as: ""Most of us know that a faux pas is a social blunder, but I wonder how many readers are aware that it really means 'a false step.'"" Too haphazard for reference, too bland for extensive skimming by any but the most easily diverted word-collectors.