The articles, averaging half a page, though based on current scholarship, are themselves casual reading. The selection is so small that readers looking for a specific word are more likely to find some other word with a story that will interest and often delight them instead. Pronunciations are not indicated, either for the main listing or for the glossary of linguistic terms. Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
The 400 alphabetically arranged entries here illustrate the diversity from which the English language draws its vocabulary, particularly from the prehistoric base that linguists call Proto-Indo-European. As a result, the editors aim to demonstrate links between the ancient base and modern English. Examples include describing how pairs of words like "flour" and "flower," as well as "housewife" and "hussy" each evolved from the same Indo-European word. Typical entries span one or two long paragraphs and are spiced with anecdotes when possible. The entries take a detailed, scholarly approach, sometimes explaining broader linguistic ideas along with the history of a word. The entry for cattle, for example, discusses the sound shift from "ch" to "c," and the entry for baby-sit defines the process of back-formation of nouns. Other scholarly resources include the introduction, which summarizes highlights of the history of English; a glossary of linguistic terms; and a chart indicating the dozens of languages that developed from Indo-European. Bottom Line Given the depth of the individual entries, this offers a more scholarly approach than other books of common word origins, such as Stewart Edelstein's Dubious Doublets. An overall quality resource, this is recommended for academic and larger public libraries.-Marianne Orme, Des Plaines P.L., IL Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.