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Word Histories and Mysteries
by the Editors of the American Heritage® Dictionaries

Word Histories and Mysteries
DISCOVER THE FUN AND FASCINATING ORIGINS OF THE WORDS WE USE EVERYDAY

How is cat like a caterpillar?
What's a mouse doing in a muscle?
Who was the first guy?
Why do we say hello?
What do we mean by goodbye?

The answers to questions like these — and indeed the origin of the word trivia itself — can be found in the pages of this fascinating and delightful book. Word Histories and Mysteries explores the origins of hundreds of the most interesting words in the English language.

Language aficionados will discover the unexpected links between such seemingly unrelated words as guest, hostility, and xenophobia — hidden connections often dating back over six thousand years ago to Proto-Indo-European, the ancestor of English spoken long before the invention of writing. English has also borrowed extensively from a veritable Babel of the world's tongues, both ancient and modern, and readers can trace here all the surprising twists and turns that words have made on their way into everyday use. The techniques that linguists use to follow the history of words are carefully explained along the way, and dozens of photographs and drawings illustrate the eclectic pleasures of English etymology.

Word Histories and Mysteries is the perfect book for word lovers and a browser's delight.



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Sample Entry:

OK
OK is a quintessentially American term that has spread from English to many other languages. Its origin was the subject of scholarly debate for many years until Allen Walker Read showed that OK is based on a joke of sorts. OK is first recorded in 1839 but was probably in circulation before that date. During the 1830s there was a humorous fashion in Boston newspapers to reduce a phrase to initials and supply an explanation in parentheses. Sometimes the abbreviations were misspelled to add to the humor . . .