Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends


Author: David Wilton
Title: Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends
Genre: Non-Fiction
Publication Date: 2008
Number of Pages: 240
Geographical Setting: NA
Time Period: NA
Series: no
Plot Summary:
This book will come in handy as a conversation starter. The author does a great job of exposing some of the most popular “word myths”, such as; Ring Around the Rosie refers to the Black Death, that Eskimos have 10,000 words for snow, or that Posh is an acronym for “Port Out, Starboard Home.” Each chapter is a brief history of the linguistic urban legend, and when possible tells the true tale of how a word or phrase came to be. In this book you will discover the true story behind popular words and expressions such as “rule of thumb,” “the whole nine yards,” “hot dog,” “raining cats and dogs,” “chew the fat,” “AWOL,” “under the weather,” “in like Flynn,” “Dixie,” “son of a gun,” “tinker’s damn,” to name a few. I also learned that SOS was not originally an acronym for “Save Our Ship” or “Save Our Souls,” but was chosen because the Morse code signal (3 dots, 3 dashes, 3 dots) was easy to send and recognize. Also, “let the cat out of the bag” does not refer to the whip (the “cat”) used to punish sailors aboard ship. The term “upset” (to defeat unexpectedly) does not date from the horse race when the heavily favored Man O’ War was beaten by a nag named Upset (Upset was the only horse ever to defeat Man O’ War, but the word predates the race by half a century). And Thomas Crapper did not invent the flush toilet, nor do the words “crap” or “crapper” derive from his name. It is fun to set the record straight when these urban word myths pop up at parties or over the holiday dinners…

Subject Headings: Linguistics, Urban legends, Language, True History, Trivia, and Etymology.
Appeal: accessible, detailed, historic details, fact, engaging, engrossing, humorous, quirky, intriguing, witty, language, nonfiction, academic, authoritative, fast paced.
3 terms that best describes this book: Etymology, Myth, History
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• Word Origins And How We Know Them: Etymology for Everyone by Anatoly Lieberman- insights into how our language has evolved, mutated and otherwise morphed over thousands of years
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Name: Laura Bartnik


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