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How Did It Begin?: The Origin of Our Curious Customs and Superstitions
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How Did It Begin?: The Origin of Our Curious Customs and Superstitions

2.77  ·  Rating Details ·  183 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
"How Did It Begin?" is an entertaining look at why we do and say the things we do. — With his trademark curiosity and delight, Dr. Rudi Brasch delves into the forgotten meanings and fascinating origins of our cutsoms, traditions, superstitions, and phrases. — Divided into themes like courtship and marriage, table manners, and drinking customs, right through to the extraord ...more
Paperback, 328 pages
Published 2011 by MJF Books (first published January 1st 1993)
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Jun 15, 2012 Jen rated it did not like it
I set the date to 1994 so this wouldn't count towards my 50 books, because I don't think I read this book as much as mentally raged against its existence. I most certainly didn't finish it. My time would be better spent watching the post-midnight fuzz on the public access stations.

I bought this book on a whim and because I thought it would be fun. I should have been more careful and checked the author, who is not a historian at all. Just a "ooh that sounds fun."

His "history" of superstitions is
May 22, 2012 Ashley rated it it was ok
This is one of those Barnes & Noble bargain books where they take a really old publication, slap a shiny new title on it, and sell it for $5 or less. This is a fun idea for a book, but most of the anecdotes are outdated and/or debunked, and there's not a single citation anywhere. I'll give it two stars simply because it's not badly written; it's just not something to trust.
Apr 24, 2014 Rob rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Brain dead monkeys
Shelves: wtf
There's just no way I could finish this book. The author doesn't even try to pretend to be objective and everything is in sore need of footnotes. How can you cover pink and blue for baby colors without even a hint that they were originally swapped?

This morning was the final straw, no way I can keep reading this book. Kissing as the possible vestige of bacterial conjugation? I think the authors are in serious need of drug testing, or at the very least, not writing the book 20 minutes before deadl
John Bruni
Aug 06, 2014 John Bruni rated it it was amazing
This is an incredibly fascinating read. I've always wondered how certain customs and habits began. A shocking amount of things we do today--things we don't even think about doing--started because our ancestors were afraid of evil spirits. Everything from covering your mouth when you yawn to ways to bury the dead: all done out of fear of evil spirits. The beginnings of marriage are also pretty interesting, mostly because the groom tended to win his bride by kidnapping her and his best man was the ...more
Oct 21, 2014 minhhai rated it it was ok
Shelves: english, non-fictions
Bad book on an interesting topic.

First, the subtitle is wrong! It should say "The origins of our curious customs ARE superstitions". The authors did not explain any origins of our superstitions (which is actually a very attracting topic). Instead, they attributed most of our customs to superstitions.

Second, no evidences to support the authors' explanations. The whole text is mere speculation. You can imagine the authors sitting at their desk conjecturing all possibilities that can explain someth
Oct 08, 2012 caracal-eyes rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers, fact-gatherers, anyone interested in beliefs/history/religions
A good collection of different beliefs, customs, and superstitions, with good explanations of origin and significance through the ages. I read this partly for bits of information that might make good details in some story, since I am--have been, for some time, if erratically--pursuing the goal of writing a novel, or even a short story, or at the very least accumulating a hefty store of details and ideas that will become useful whenever I actually do write something. To that purpose, I found a nu ...more
Mar 11, 2015 Erikka rated it it was ok
I'm rating this one pretty low because:

A) no citations. I mean, anyone can say that so-and-so is the source of a phrase or custom, but can you really believe it if there's no proof of documentation?

B) some stuff was kind of offensive, especially a comment about "angry natives" that I made a comment about below. I know this book is British, but even Brits know what stuff is universally not okay to say.

C) this was soooo lonnnggg. And some of the things were either repetitive or not very interestin
Paul Lunger
Mar 27, 2015 Paul Lunger rated it really liked it
Rudolph Brasch's "How Did It Begin?: The Origin of Our Curious Customs & Superstitions" takes us on a whirlwind tour of customs & superstitions from the calendar to religion & the entire life cycle. Across 25 chapters & over 300 pages, he covers things that I as reader did know & many things that I'd always wondered about. What's nice about this book is the organization of things by category which stay true to that category as well as his ability for the customs that might ha ...more
Mar 20, 2014 Pattie rated it it was ok
I read a lot of the reviews before starting this book and thought "surely it can't be THAT bad!"
The first several chapters I read and, though there were no citations, I enjoyed the book for what it was - a quick, easy, albeit potentially false, book of information to read just before bed.
Then... About eight chapters in, I just lost steam. It wasn't charming anymore. It was wordy, frustrating, and riddled with (I finally started seeing) the typos, outright incorrect information, etc.
All that t
Feb 13, 2014 Qwertyquickly rated it did not like it
This book is frankly a disgrace. It relies on anthropology that is thankfully on the way out. They use the older idea that women were always subjugated in the past (which is at odds with modern findings that ancient cultures were much more elgalitarian). They repeatedly refer to cultures with terms like "primitive" and "savages", which also tends to have racist overtones. They say they cover cultures of the world and then repeatedly and heavily focus on Western Europe. Did you know that a tour o ...more
Apr 13, 2014 Jason rated it it was ok
How did it all begin? It began with my walking into a B&N vestibule, gazing upon the bargain table, thinking, “this one looks like fun. And what a price!” The price to be paid, quite frankly, was a poorly organized and quite confusing read, at times. And not in that charming, Cliff Clavin-y kind of way, either.

“Then why two stars instead of one?” you may be asking. This book still has a divine purpose. To be placed within arm’s reach of your guest bathroom’s toilet.
Aaron Schmid
Feb 02, 2013 Aaron Schmid rated it did not like it
Shelves: books-i-own
It was long and drawn out, boring, and I'm honestly not even sure how much of it was factual. I think this guy might've just made stuff up...he gives no sources and there is no bibliography. No wonder it was on Barnes and Noble's sale rack. I'm not sure if it would be unethical to resell this on ebay, haha. I would never suggest reading this...even if some things are true or would you ever know if it was actually legitimate?
Mar 01, 2016 Makayla rated it really liked it
If you can take this book for what it is, it's a good read. It's not any kind of historically factual book about traditions and customs. But rather more a speculation on where our different customs and past times have come from. There's a lot of here say and speculation and its low on facts. But I've found it very entertaining and have enjoyed the odd ways things used to be done, and how things like the modern card game came about.
Sep 09, 2016 Andrew rated it it was ok
I think there are better books out there with tidbits of knowledge about the origins of various sayings, traditions, customs, etc. This one felt sort of slap-dashed together. Some entries were very thorough and others only a sentence or two. I believe the author was Australian - so there's a focus on British, American and Australian customs.
Apr 22, 2013 Caitlin rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013-reads
It began fun with how our superstitions and wedding habits began but then we started going into architecture, religion, dress and pretty much everything else. It started just becoming facts. I might buy it when I have kids and they start asking "Why is it like this?" This way I can look it up and tell them! Over all okay.
Meredith Hull
Jun 27, 2012 Meredith Hull rated it really liked it
I really liked this book. The segments were quick, to the point, and informational. I took off a star because I'm not sure I would have ordered the chapters in the same way and there does seem to be some repetition between segment explanations (as if they were written independent of one another then pulled together).
Marisa Berman
Aug 07, 2013 Marisa Berman rated it it was ok
Accept this book for what it is - interesting bits of folklore and here say that possibly explain common customs. This is not a book to be used as a historical reference. I would not recommend citing this book in an academic article or term paper - especially since there are no footnotes or even a bibliography. But it is still enjoyable and has some good claims.
Tracy Osimowicz
I was enjoying this quite a bit until I read these comments here and realized there indeed was not a single citation anywhere...I did not finish it because I'm not sure I can trust it, but it was quite interesting while I was.
Enjoyment: 4/5
Beauty: 2.5/5
Meaningful-ness: N/A (b/c IDK if any of it is true)
Matthieu Huang
Apr 18, 2015 Matthieu Huang rated it did not like it
Halfway through this book. It is obvious that this is a light entertainment type book rather than a scholarly work. I don't trust everything written in it, because the author did not once site a single one of his/her sources. Everything in this book I read with a lot of skepticism. I bought this books on sale, but I still feel like I paid to much.
Nov 08, 2016 Russianwitch rated it it was ok
Amazed that this was published in 2011.
Weird inaccuracies, some passive aggressive prejudice which is very weird and very out of place especially for something that aims at explanation and clarification.
Mar 26, 2014 Austin rated it liked it
Shelves: reference
People really bashed this book. While it's not a 5 star read, you can find plenty of things of interest. Some things covered weren't particularly interesting, while others I felt like I wanted to know more.
Fredrick Danysh
Jun 03, 2013 Fredrick Danysh rated it liked it
Shelves: history
The author has collected superstitions, rituals, symbols, and customs and gives probable origins of them. In several instances alternative origins are suggested. This is mostly conjecture on the part of the author.
Benjamin Schupp
Sep 12, 2016 Benjamin Schupp rated it did not like it
Just like other reviews, this book has no citations and nothing to make you think anything that is said is anything but the author's very biased opinion. I would say 90% of his "beginnings," are just 'the bible.' I wound not recommend.
Feb 21, 2013 Liz rated it it was ok
Taking the place of an ancient magical wand, the scepter was said to have been a branch from a sacred tree, if not the tree of life itself, which gave those wielding it supernatural power to control the world. (p. 184)
Donald Powell
Dec 22, 2014 Donald Powell rated it really liked it
Interesting but so many things are lost to history that much of the book is just recitation of competing theory or conjecture.
Sep 08, 2011 Mike rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book makes an awesome bathroom book! Full of random facts, each story is short enough to be read in a couple minutes. You'll love it if you're a history buff.
Carolyn Bunkley
Oct 30, 2013 Carolyn Bunkley rated it it was ok
Some of the "explanations" of the history behind many customs in this book seem as if the authors made up as they went along. Glad I only paid $3, sorry I couldn't get it for less.
Marc Leroux
May 04, 2013 Marc Leroux rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: absolutely no one
Overly long, not that informative, not interesting to read and has any number of factually incorrect entries and/or urban myths reported as fact.
Jeff Sedlak
Feb 23, 2014 Jeff Sedlak rated it really liked it
Good book with A LOT of information. I found it very interesting to see where certain sayings, customs, and everday items came from.
Michael rated it liked it
Jan 03, 2017
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