Port Out, Starboard Home: And Other Language Myths

by Michael Quinion | Nonfiction |
ISBN: 0140515348 Global Overview for this book
Registered by cnfotp on 11/22/2005
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9 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by cnfotp on Tuesday, November 22, 2005
"Can it be true that 'golf' stands for 'Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden'? Or that 'rule of thumb' comes from an archaic legal principle that a man may chastise his wife, but only with a rod no thicker than his thumb? Or that a 'wake' was so-called beacuse the guests sat around to check that the corpse didn't wake up?

These and hundreds of other stories are commonly told and retold whenever people meet. They grow up in part because expressions are genuinely mysterious. Why, for example, are satisfying meals 'square' rather than any other shape? And how did anyone ever come up with the idea that if you're competent at something you can 'cut the mustard'? People are so resourceful at explaining the inexplicable that there are at least a dozen plausible-sounding stories for the origins of phrases such as 'the full monty', 'cocktail', or 'the real McCoy'.

Offered up as an international bookring.

Journal Entry 2 by cnfotp on Sunday, November 27, 2005
Offered as a Bookring. List of participants posted here:

clarrie-rose (UK)
cloggy (UK)
raeliz64 (UK)
xtra (Norway)
marko167 (Switzerland) <- it's here!
LyekkaMarengo (US, PA)
michaeljl (US, OR)
imadiver (US, OR)
grooble (Australia)
Xanthe-pup (UK)
jasminasab (Bosnia-Herz)
back to me...

Journal Entry 3 by cnfotp on Tuesday, November 29, 2005
This is going in the post today to clarrie-rose... Enjoy :)

Journal Entry 4 by BC-08080413432 from London, Greater London United Kingdom on Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Received this morning - looks really good. Thanks!

Journal Entry 5 by BC-08080413432 from London, Greater London United Kingdom on Thursday, December 08, 2005
I really enjoyed this. It was very interesting and good to dip into. I also found it strange to realise how many words and phrases have become so normal that I actually didn’t realise they made no sense: double-cross, for example, or curry favour. Thanks for sharing this - I’ll now send it off to cloggy.

Journal Entry 6 by BC-08080413432 from London, Greater London United Kingdom on Tuesday, December 13, 2005
I sent this off to cloggy this morning.

Journal Entry 7 by cloggy from London, Greater London United Kingdom on Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Arrived with me safely this morning. Looks like a perfect book to read over Christmas.
Thanks cnfotp & clarrie-rose

Journal Entry 8 by cloggy from London, Greater London United Kingdom on Wednesday, January 11, 2006
This book was definitely more satisfying in some parts than in others. Where Quinion actually knows for a fact where a term comes from, it is fascinating.

For example, the origin of 'the exception proves the rule' makes perfect sense. Far more so than the way it is used at the moment (you'll just have to read it to see what I mean). Interestingly enough - I think so anyway - we have a saying in Dutch that is a literal translation of this, and used in the same incorrect way.

But there are many places where Quinion, nor I suppose anybody else, knows what the precise origin of a word is, and these are the areas that work less well. He will discredit some other explanation of the origin, and will make a suggestion that seems to me as spurious as the ones he faulted. Or at least with as little evidence.

However, that could just be a personal preference of mine. Where Quinion says: it isn't this, I just want to say: so what is it then? And he often does not do this. So for me, half the book works really well and the other half is interesting enough, but doesn't give me any answers. Maybe others will not find this an issue and I'll be interested to know.

Have pm-ed the next person for their address and will hopefully get the book in the post on the weekend


Journal Entry 9 by raeliz64 from Leicester, Leicestershire United Kingdom on Thursday, January 19, 2006
Received this book today. Thanks for sharing.

Journal Entry 10 by raeliz64 from Leicester, Leicestershire United Kingdom on Saturday, January 21, 2006
A very interesting book. There were quite a few sayings that I thought I knew the origin of that turned out to be myths!
I would have liked a few more definite answers though.
I have xtra's address and will be sending the book on it's way early next week.

Journal Entry 11 by raeliz64 from Leicester, Leicestershire United Kingdom on Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Posted to xtra today.

Journal Entry 12 by xtra from Trondheim, Sør-Trøndelag fylke Norway on Friday, January 27, 2006
That was an expedient delivery!
I look forward to reading this. Language is one of my great interests.

Journal Entry 13 by xtra from Trondheim, Sør-Trøndelag fylke Norway on Monday, March 20, 2006
I'm very sorry about the delay!
I finished the book a couple of weeks ago, also a bit late, but I was flooded with several bookring books all at once. And then lots of small things happened that kept me from making the final journey to the post office. But today is the day.

I found much to enjoy in the book, but I think that only people who have English as their native language can appreciate all of it. Still, it was an interesting read. Thank you, cnfotp, for letting me read it!

Journal Entry 14 by marko167 from Sant Pere de Ribes, Barcelona Spain on Monday, March 27, 2006
Received today, my first BC mail in Switzerland. Will probably get round to it in a week or so. I look forward to reading it.

Journal Entry 15 by marko167 from Sant Pere de Ribes, Barcelona Spain on Friday, June 16, 2006
This is an interesting book, but definitely one I'd prefer to have in my PC for reference rather than a read right through.

However I did enjoy it and loved flicking through especially to check out the swear words. If you enjoy this you should listen into BBC Radio 4 Word of Mouth when it returns.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/factual/wordofmouth.shtml

Journal Entry 16 by marko167 at BookRing in Book Ring, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases on Friday, June 16, 2006

Released 13 yrs ago (6/16/2006 UTC) at BookRing in Book Ring, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases

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RELEASE NOTES:

Off he flys to Warriors Mark, USA.

Journal Entry 17 by LyekkaMarengo from Warriors Mark, Pennsylvania USA on Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Received safe and sound in Central PA. Thanks for the post card, I always had the feeling the Swiss were hiding something about themselves.

Journal Entry 18 by LyekkaMarengo from Warriors Mark, Pennsylvania USA on Monday, August 07, 2006
As someone who enjoy the English language in a large part due to it's absurbity this was a very interesting read. Most of the folk tales of how sayings came about turn out to be mostly that, just folk tales. But we as a species like things to seem logical and most of the wrong derivations actually sound much more interesting than the true story. Just shows that we are also natural born story tellers (and maker-uppers, if there is such a word.)

I have the next address to send this on and I'll get it in the mail as soon as I get to the post office.

Book was mailed to michaeljl in Portland, OR on 08/17/2006

Journal Entry 19 by michaeljl from Portland, Oregon USA on Monday, August 21, 2006
Received today. Will read and forward.

Journal Entry 20 by michaeljl at Southwest Community Center, 6820 SW 45th in Portland, Oregon USA on Monday, December 05, 2011

Released 7 yrs ago (12/4/2011 UTC) at Southwest Community Center, 6820 SW 45th in Portland, Oregon USA

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At the fireplace Bookcrossing zone shelf.

Journal Entry 21 by KeithRPrior at Multnomah Village, Oregon USA on Thursday, December 08, 2011
I love books about words: this is no exception. This takes on a lot of the words and expressions we think or have thought were understood. This book undoes most of those mistaken understandings and sets some of the origins right. The author takes well into account the mutability of language and our desire as a species to have stories that make some sense about the stories these word often tell.

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