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The Names of Things

4.12  ·  Rating Details  ·  136 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
A striking, original memoir of the archaeology of language praised as "an etymological wonderment" (William Safire) and "simply and eloquently -- magic".
Paperback, 230 pages
Published June 1st 1998 by Riverhead Trade (first published 1997)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 269)
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Karin Jacobson
Mar 06, 2008 Karin Jacobson rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite books. I've often turned to Morrow's rich, lyrical language for solace or inspiration. This book is deeply spiritual, while also grounded fully in the landscapes Morrow loves: the Finger Lakes and Egypt. The book is also about language, and Morrow explores the natural history of words deep in Egypt's deserts. One reviewer criticized the book because, "Her prose is so lyrical that the book is more like reading poetry than anything else." To me, that's a plus, not a minu ...more
Marinda Bland
Jun 08, 2011 Marinda Bland rated it really liked it
This is one of those miraculous books that you scavange from the basement of the Uptown Booksmart. I'd never heard of Susan Brind Morrow before I found her book in the Egypt section, but now I think it's amazing that she doesn't have her own wikipedia page.

Not only is her memoir beautifully and lyrically written, full of vivid imagery, but Morrow is about the coolest damn person I can think of. Maybe even cooler than Kathy Acker. Linguist, Archeologist, Egyptologist, Translator, Writer - Morrow
An interesting read that weaves the study of language, egypt and hieroglyphics with personal narrative. I found it to be OK ... for me, the highlight is on pages 5 & 6:

"The flamingo is the hieroglyph for red. All red things: anger, blood, the desert are spelled with the flamingo. The Red Sea Hills are mostly red. The red rock is vibrant in the changing light.

Near here are lavender mountains with cranberry cliffs. Silver and blue and green wadis wind around them. But the true red of the Eas
Aug 05, 2011 Miquela rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Mrs. Brind Morrow took me on a beautiful journey I won't soon forget and inspired me to listen more closely to the land and the people next time I go a-traveling.
May 18, 2008 Kelly rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: lovers of language & travel.
I'm not quite done with this, but I'm going to review it anyway. It's a fascinating book by a writer who really knows words from all sides. Brind Morrow weaves together her memoir, her experiences travelling in Egypt, and etymologies of words in Arabic, ancient Greek, and other Mediterranean/Middle Eastern languages, ancient and modern. The book doesn't quite have enough forward momentum to make you pick it up again once you set it down - at least if you have a busy life like I do - and it reall ...more
The quartz-flecked blue marble of the vine-crowned Coptic columns absorbed into the qiblah has been eaten by the air into waves.

Paint a thousand words. Scarlet birds. Sparkling sands. Rivers of green. Gold etched in bookbinding. Orange-bellied fish. Lemon-green dawn. Yellow jacinth, the six fabric of heaven.

Susan Brind Morrow takes her North American upbringing, including the loss of a close relative, and attaches herself to Egypt via her love of language. Whether it's Arabic, Latin, Greek, or w
Nick Schroeder
Oct 01, 2010 Nick Schroeder rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's been awhile since I've read this but after reading it the first time I have gone back and reread sections. I agree with Brian's review that the section on pages five and six on "red" is great writing. It's a book that is often on my night stand because it's a book that after you've read it once you can pick up and open to just about any page and enjoy the writing. Ms. Morrow, you must write more.

I've also read "Wolves and Honey" but had to get it from the library. I always check the shelves
Elizabeth Smith
Mar 25, 2014 Elizabeth Smith rated it really liked it
Beautiful descriptions of Egypt, and the linguistic stuff is marvelous. But I felt oddly distanced from her in this book -- her memoir style is sometimes too cryptic for my taste.
Deborah Black
Jul 10, 2008 Deborah Black rated it liked it
A small and absorbing meditatively paced memoir of one woman’s travel adventures from New York City to the deserts of Egypt and Sudan in search of “the birth of language”. Living with nomads, navigating the harsh terrain and many obstacles, what emerges, more than travel writing, is the experience of the world through the eyes of a linguist and naturalist. A contemporary mid-eastern Walden. Anyone who loves language will be drawn in by Morrow’s spare poetic style and observations rooted in a bac ...more
L.R. Hughes
May 11, 2016 L.R. Hughes rated it it was amazing
Superb. An artsy, abstract swirl of travel anecdotes, the history of language, and insights into the complexity of the human condition.

The strapline: A Passage in the Egyptian Desert.

Dedication: For Lanny

Four Sections:

Dead Lanuguage - You could begin with the crab that scratches in the sand. The name of the animal is the action or sound it makes, or its color.

page 21: Bale de bale kerulos eien
os t'epi kumatos anthos am' alkuoessi potetai
nedeed etor exon, aliporphuros iaros ornis

Would oh would I were a kingfisher that flies with the halcyons along the breaking waves, with a fearless heart, that holy bird, the deep blue of the se
Farzana Marie
Feb 04, 2015 Farzana Marie rated it really liked it
Some wonderful moments in this book: insights on language, naming, and the archeology of words.
Rose Anderson
Beautiful use of the origins of words to describe her affinity for the Egyptian desert.
Rose Anderson
Beautiful use of the origins of words to describe her affinity for the Egyptian desert.
Aug 31, 2007 Mary rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone with an interest in Egypt, language or travel
Shelves: wouldreadagain
This woman, Susan Brind Morrow. Wow, she is amazing. This book is amazing. I don't know who recommended this book, Mary Matto? Ana? It's beautifully written and can reach you on many levels. For me, I am most enjoying reading about this woman's connection to people she meets in Egypt, Sudan through the many many times she has lived there and also through her own healing process. It makes me ache. She's also a super smarty pants. William Safire gave this book a 'an etymological wonderment' which ...more
Apr 06, 2008 Jrobertus rated it liked it
This is an unusual read. Morrow is a linguist with an interest in the nature-based origin of ancient Egyptian words and hieroglyphs. She loves Egypt and its people, no matter their poverty and superstition. This narrative mixes her life, family memories, and observations of beauty with her travels and studies. The result is quite interesting. Oddly enough for someone interested in words, I found her sentence construction awkward and often difficult to follow; I guess its the poetry coming out.
Alex Cunningham
May 17, 2007 Alex Cunningham rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Etymologists, humans
Brind Morrow will tell you what a word is worth. She knows, because she's a world-class etymologist and a person deeply enough in love with life to attempt to wrestle it down and stuff it into the pages of a memoir about journalism, relationships, and the natural world of Cairo. The less said about this book, the better, because her language feels older and deeper than the ocean, and as hard to contain.
Nov 20, 2014 Joanne rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. Although I've never been to Egypt, Susan Brind Morrow made me feel as though I was there with her. Her words paint pictures of what life was like in Egypt in the 1980's. Her descriptions of the landscape and people are beautfilly written. A fascinating insight into another culure.
Feb 18, 2013 Tiffany rated it really liked it
A little book that is much bigger than you expect it to be: rich with respect for language, sensual pleasure taking in beauty of the natural world, savory of the kindness of north Africans.
Apr 05, 2009 Melissa rated it really liked it
Shelves: gifts
I enjoyed this book immensely. A wonderful gift from a friend just before a family trip to Egypt and some journies across the deserts described here.
Jul 05, 2012 Ellin rated it it was ok
Kept trying but just couldn't get seem to through this book. Finally gave up. Guess the writing style just wasn't my cup of tea.
Feb 03, 2009 Michael rated it really liked it
A charming and inventive book, part travelogue, part etymology, exploring the northeastern parts of Africa—Egypt, Somalia, etc.
Oct 24, 2007 Sharon rated it it was amazing
Gorgeous memoir about etymology and the desert peoples of Egypt and Sudan. One of my absolute favorite books.
Sep 07, 2015 Betsy rated it really liked it
The descriptions of the desert make you feel like you're there and can see how the words originated.
Leo W.
Jul 17, 2013 Leo W. rated it liked it
Almost perfect, except when it isn't.
Susan Carlson
Aug 29, 2007 Susan Carlson rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone with an interest in language or Egypt.
Shelves: non-fiction
A stunning, subtle memoir.
Eelsmum marked it as to-read
Jun 17, 2016
Mary Miller
Mary Miller rated it liked it
Jun 14, 2016
Nizam uddin
Nizam uddin rated it really liked it
Jun 13, 2016
Jill Texeira
Jill Texeira marked it as to-read
Jun 13, 2016
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