This is something new for this blog: a plug for a book I have not actually read.
But Anu Garg’s newest book, The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or Two: The Hidden Lives and Strange Origins of Common and Not-So-Common Words, looks to be pretty great. Anu Garg is the guy behind the A Word A Day mailing list, which (in my opinion) is far superior to the dictionary.com mailing list or other such imitators. The guy’s been sending out a daily word, Monday through Friday, for years, and I’m pretty sure it’s just him doing it–no assistants or interns or nothing. The theme weeks are pretty impressive; one recent theme was “words originally having something to do with fabric” and another was on toponyms (toponyms and eponyms seem to be two of Garg’s favorite categories, as those themes surface often). The book looks like more of the good stuff from the mailing list, with more of a focus on etymology and less on “words one can actually use in daily life” (not something Garg ever really focuses on, except for maybe one week out of the year).
Anyone fascinated by words should check this book out, or just sign up for the mailing list.