Marion's Reviews > The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language

The Etymologicon by Mark Forsyth
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's review
Mar 31, 2012

really liked it
Read in April, 2012

p. 97
Morpheus, from which morphine derives, was the Greek god of dreams. He was the son of Sleep and the brother of Fantasy, and he lived in a cave near the underworld here he would make dreams and then hang them upon a withered elm until they were ready to use.

p. 123
There was an explorer at the beginning of the nineteenth century called Alexander von Humboldt. He was in Venezuela and found an old parrot that still repeated words from the language of the Ature tribe. Nobody else did, because the Atures had been wiped out a few years before. Another tribe had slaughtered every last one of them and returned victorious with, among other things, a pet parrot. This parrot still spoke only words from the tribe that had raised him. So all that was left of a Venezuelan civilisation were the echoes and repetitions of a parrot.

p. 124
Finally, Amerigo Vespucci named part of South America Little Venice, or in Spanish, Venezuela, becuse lots of the local tribesmen lived in huts that were built out into the water and supported by stilts, making it a sort of ramshackle miniature Venice.

p. 139
In 1996 a fellow called Jim Kardach developed a system that would allow mobile telephones to communicate with computers. After a hard day's engineering, Kardach relaxed by reading a historical novel called The Longships by Frans Gunnar Bengtsson. It's a book about Vikings and adventure and raping and pillaging and looting, and it's set during the reign of Harald Bluetooth.*

/* King Harald I of Denmark lived from 935 to 986 AD, and united the warring provinces of Denmark and Norway under a single king (himself)./

/.../ So, just for his own amusement, he gave the project the working title of Bluetooth. Bluetooth was never meant to be the actual name on the package. Blue teeth aren't a pleasant image, and it was up to the marketing men at Kardach's company to come up with something better. The marketing men did come up with someting much blander and more saleable: they were going to call the product Pan. Unfortunately, just as the new technology was about to be unveiled, they realised that Pan was already a trademark of another company. So, as time was tight and the product needed to be launched, they reluctantly went with Kardach's nickname. And that's why it's called Bluetooth technology.

p. 146
...window, which was originally a wind-eye, because, though you can look out through it like an eye, in the days before glass the wind could get in.

(names, words and original meanings)

Father of a gazelle - Abu Dhabi
Beer gate - Aldgate
Slogan - a Celtic war-cry
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