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Wordcatcher: An Odyssey into the World of Weird and Wonderful Words

3.5  ·  Rating Details ·  127 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
Who knew that the great country of Canada is named for a mistake? How about "bedswerver," the best Elizabethan insult to hurl at a cheating boyfriend? By exploring the delightful back stories of the 250 words in Wordcatcher, readers are lured by language and entangled in etymologies. Author Phil Cousineau takes us on a tour into the obscure territory of word origins with g ...more
Kindle Edition
Published (first published January 1st 2010)
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Sep 23, 2011 Cameron rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
For those of us who are nerds about words, this seems like a dream come true. The author treats the book like a dictionary of sorts, tracking the origin and etymology of several interesting, and not-so-interesting, words. As I thought, I was hooked by "Abracadabra" and started reading excitedly, even sharing some of the stories of weird words with friends. However, by the time I made my way to the "E"s, I was done. Only about one in every eight words actually have an interesting etymology behind ...more
Kevin Aston Hoey
Nov 27, 2011 Kevin Aston Hoey rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Word Catcher, more like Word Wanker! The author gets so pent up and masturbatory about the words he has collected in this book that he goes beyond the prattle of those wine snobs who wax lyrical about a heady Bordeaux blend.

I was determined to finish this book just for the challange. The book cover talks about an 'odyssey...of weird and wonderfuk words' but the contents includes such exotic words as: 'aware', 'beauty', 'focus', 'happy', 'rebate' and 'travel'! Which would be ok if there was a st
Phil Cousineau is probably best known for his documentary films, but he's also a guy who likes to collect words. This book is a collection of favorite words he has 'caught" over the years with some history about them and a lot of rambly free-associative thought. I don't know how "weird" they are since there were only a handful I wasn't familiar with, but Cousineau's list reminds us that words can be fun (dastardly, kerfuffle, bamboozle), fascinating (eldritch, kibosh, cant) and gorgeous (gossame ...more
Sep 19, 2010 Sharry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This little gem of a book is a must-own for every writer, reader, word and language lover. It's charming, highly informative and evokes a sense of awe and gratitude for the richness of the journey our words have traveled.
Laura-nassidesa Eschbaugh
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 01, 2011 Carla marked it as books-i-want  ·  review of another edition
listed on NPR's best of 2010 books list,
Dec 13, 2010 Jennifer marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jennifer by: NPR
Shelves: history
Dec 07, 2016 Medhansu rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up
I'm listening to this book rather than reading it but the narration is simply awful. I didn't pay attention at the beginning so I'm not sure if the narrator is the author. If it is, then bad mistake on his part- it's so monotonous to verge on the soporific. There is no modulation to speak of, it might as be a robot.

And choice of words is random, some are interesting and have a good b/g but many are just bleh. Granted it's the author's choice but when you write a book for others you should consid
Dec 31, 2016 Carmen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone with a proclivity for words!
Recommended to Carmen by: Daniel Goldin from Best of 2010, Indie Booksellers
Very interesting! I read a few words each day! I liked his reference to authors, such a Mark Twain, who used the words, and also his research as to when and where the word first appeared.
Sep 19, 2016 Deedra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was very interesting and fun to read.Jack Chekijian is a fine narrator for this book.Learning the origins behind words is fascinating.You'll love this book!
I was given this book free for an honest review.
Kathryn Theulen dailey
Would you listen to Wordcatcher again? Why?
Yes I enjoyed listening to where different words have come from.

Have you listened to any of Jack Chekijian’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
Jack has an amazing voice. I enjoy listening to his voice. It is very manly and interesting.

Any additional comments?
This is the 1st book I've listened to by Phil Cousineau. His love of words and their origins are very interesting.

I completely enjoyed this book. I love to learn new we
May 08, 2010 Annemarie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got to go and hear him read this at my favorite Oakland bookstore (Mrs. Dalloway's!) It was a a great treat. It makes me want to quit my day job and travel and learn greek and tell stores to others. Maybe, god forbid, use my old English major to be a teacher rather than work in the basement of a bank? I think these are the kinds of things I will torment my children with - as once you know the story behind some words, it is hard to forget them. It's the kind of book I want to buy 10 copies of a ...more
May 24, 2011 Mark rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I gave up on this book in the As. This was my 1st book from the public library via Overdrive and I grabbed it as potentially interesting when we went to a training session at SCPL on how to get and use audiobooks from Overdrive/SCPL. No, this was not an audiobook version; it was print.

I ended up letting my checkout expire before writing this despite my intentions so my specific dislikes are going to be hard to frame. Bottom line, you might like it. I just found his style not to my liking. That i
May 24, 2014 Lesa rated it really liked it
This book is really interesting. I really enjoyed learning the origins of these words. It makes for interesting dinner party conversations too. I did skip over a few; the foreign language entries didn't really interest me. There were several words in here that I had never heard before, so I definitely learned a lot from reading this book. I have its sequel also (The Painted Word: A Treasure Chest of Remarkable Words and Their Origins) and look forward to reading it sometime.
A verbally illustrated compendium of only 250 chosen words not simply defined and contextualized, but expanded and expounded upon. Where did it come from? How has it been used? Who has used it in a way that has made it noteworthy in some fashion? Listen to this exploration of verbosity performed by the dependably articulate Narrator Jack. His well-modulated voice gives life and variety to this presentation.
This book was a gift to a bibliophile.
Jan 24, 2012 Naomi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

- dastardly; a varmint of an adjective, a villainous word dressed up
in a black hat and handlebar mustache, signaling cowardly,
ignoble behavior.
- panache; effortless style, easy swagger.
- enigma; a secret, a riddle, a shadowy saying, a puzzling person.

I love words.
Sarah Jamison
Aug 14, 2013 Sarah Jamison rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: quit
I quit. Sometimes stuff really is better in blog format. It was nice and all but I just don't care about what Phil cares about that much, even if I really do like words and like reading about them. There isn't any etymology or philology here. It's just words and why Phil personally likes them. I quit before I got to B, y'all.
Ann Sosnowski
This was enjoyable and I kept it on hand for short time periods where I could read. the format is perfect for that- each word with a half-page story behind its origin. I will keep this for a reference guide.
Claudia Andersen
Great little book to browse through, read random word origins. Each word has a story, a historical reference, a context & culture. I gave up reading cover to cover but find I keep picking it up for more....for lovers of words.
Apr 15, 2015 Hanan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
a Simple dictionary for words chosen by the author. I think that some words have not got enough and full definitions. The organization of words in the book was so boring.
Vaughn Roycroft
Vaughn Roycroft rated it it was amazing
Nov 19, 2011
Phil Cousineau
Aug 10, 2011 Phil Cousineau rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Wanda rated it liked it
Dec 17, 2011
Daniel Beckwith
Daniel Beckwith rated it it was ok
May 07, 2015
Dec 12, 2010 Ladiibbug marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wish-list
Rec: Donna Brooks in email " Indie Booksellers' Best of 2010 Books"
Maija rated it liked it
Dec 29, 2011
Deborah Laux
Deborah Laux rated it it was amazing
Feb 09, 2016
Bobby Langhorne
Bobby Langhorne rated it really liked it
Aug 15, 2014
David Buckingham
David Buckingham rated it really liked it
Jan 04, 2016
Ivan rated it it was ok
Oct 01, 2015
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Phil Cousineau is a writer, teacher, editor, independent scholar, documentary filmmaker, travel leader, and storyteller. The author of more than 30 nonfiction books, Cousineau has more than 15 documentary screenwriting credits to his name, including the 1991 Academy Award-nominated Forever Activists. His life-long fascination with art, literature, and the history of culture has taken him on many j ...more
More about Phil Cousineau...

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“My love of publishing goes back to my first job on the hometown newspaper when I was a 16-year-old cub reporter, but I caught a novel version of the word and the idea at a 1980 poetry reading by Allan Ginsberg. That night he exhorted all in the audience to remember the original sense of the word when he said that every public reading of a poem was a bona fide form of publishing, taking the good word to the people. For the last word on getting published let’s turn to one of the least recognized, in her own time, of all great writers, Emily Dickinson, who said, “Publication—is the auction of the Mind of Man.” Of her 1775 poems, only seven were published in her lifetime, which flies in the face of the academic exhortation to “publish or perish.” Dickinson rarely published, but her poetry is imperishable.” 1 likes
“David W. Orr writes, in The Nature of Design, “We are losing the capacity to say what we really mean and ultimately to think about what we mean. We are losing the capacity for articulate intelligence about the things that matter most.” 0 likes
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