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Semantic Antics: How and Why Words Change Meaning
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Semantic Antics: How and Why Words Change Meaning

3.54  ·  Rating Details ·  85 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
"My favorite popular word book of the year"
-William Safire, NY Times 6/22/2008

A fun, new approach to examining etymology!

Many common English words started out with an entirely different meaning than the one we know today. For example:

The word adamant came into English around 855 C.E. as a synonym for 'diamond,' very different from today's meaning of the word: "utterly un
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 25th 2008 by Random House Reference
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Mar 25, 2016 Jason rated it liked it
This wasn't exactly what I expected, and at first I found it terribly insulting to anyone's intelligence. Some of the entries (the book is alphabetized in dictionary style) had no justification for being included. I stuck with it, however, and became familiar with the Steinmetz style. I learned about amelioration and pejoration, and appreciated the wealth of quotations exemplifying a given word's change in usage. Being a reference book, it can be a bit tiresome to read a lot of in one sitting, ...more
Dec 09, 2009 Tim rated it it was amazing
Good book to dip into - I read it during free moments at lunch. It provides a history of individual words and how their meanings have developed over time. My conversation would be so much richer if I could only remember a few of the stories. The author picks interesting words and has good modern and historical/literary examples.
May 15, 2008 Eric rated it really liked it
This is a good little book. Steinmetz takes a collection of words and discusses how the meanings have shifted since they came into the English language. It's also nice, as you can read straight through, or flip about. Steinmetz also uses some excellent examples to illustrate his work. Quite good.
Mar 25, 2013 Catherine rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, language
I had a lot of fun exploring the shifting meanings of commonly used words.
Oct 02, 2008 Glenn rated it it was ok
Who new that "yelp" wasn't onomatopoeic but instead had a long history, originally meaning "to speak vainly"? [and do we care?] This is basically a dictionary (highly selective--too selective, really, since Steinmetz's choices seem pretty random). Not a good "beach read" but interesting, and easy to cover the "A" words or "B" words or "C" words (etc) in the 10 mins I have before I fall asleep each night.
Feb 14, 2013 Rowena rated it liked it
Shelves: language
For a linguistics lover, this is a great book! It gives examples of how many common English words started out with a totally different meaning. I also enjoyed the quotations from novels that were included in the book. The only thing I didn't like very much was the book's organization; the words are listed alphabetically, like in a dictionary. Overall, I really enjoyed reading it.
Apr 16, 2008 steven rated it it was ok
It's a dictionary.

Okay, so it's not the OED. And it doesn't carry so much as a third of the words in the English language. But it's a dictionary; not exactly something to curl up with and read cover-to-cover, unless you're really into encyclopedic knowledge.
Jun 02, 2008 John-Scott rated it it was ok
If you enjoy words - this is a great reference book - although it only explores a limited set of words as they've evolved.

As the Web evolves, semantics will be a factor as in understanding the context; looking for meaning. This topic is of professional interest to me.
Jul 10, 2010 Lori rated it it was ok
not what i expected, is just a dictionary of words and their origins. thought it would be more in story format
Oct 19, 2008 Christina rated it it was ok
was hoping this would be more interesting than it was. turned out, it was a coffee table kind of book...
Oct 24, 2008 John rated it liked it
Shelves: library_books
Interesting idea, but I'm glad I didn't spend money on the book; after a while the words began running together.
Oct 20, 2008 Lauren rated it really liked it
This book is Great! I completely let out my inner nerd when I saw this! It's a book that tells the change in word meanings throughout history.
Oct 31, 2015 Mackenzie rated it liked it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I found it very interesting, but it soon became boring because it is organized like a dictionary, so I was basically reading a dictionary.
May 05, 2012 J.M. rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
An interesting look at some common, everyday words and how their meaning evolved throughout the ages. Laid out in dictionary format, this isn't exactly something you'd read back to back.
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