This is a book for people who revel in language, taking the reader on a delightful trip through the exotic origins of English words. Forsyth’s account is tumultuous, whisking the reader between Viking invasions, Starbucks and monks as he meanders from one word to the next, exploring their linguistic connections.
His misanthropic tone makes it highly enjoyable to read. However, someone looking for a more focused exploration of the English language will find it a little disappointing. At moments Forsyth employs a methodological approach to demonstrate the root of European languages, but many of the explanations seem unconvincing, and appear to amount to little more than folk etymology. Some of the historical details are also rather dubious (he uses the example of a cabal formed against Charles II, for which there is no evidence) and the author is not afraid to admit that he has used Wikipedia for much of his research. Thoroughly entertaining, nevertheless.
The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language Mark Forsyth £12.99, Icon Books