By Julian Walker
(Shire, Paperback, 9780747807490, 80pp.)
Publication Date: October 20, 2009
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For 1500 years English has built new words or taken them from other languages and changed their form and often their meaning to make them the words we use today. When we explore the journeys, arrivals and changes of these words, they present us with some extraordinary stories. School for example, comes indirectly from the Greek word for leisure, and lord is made from Old English words meaning keeper of bread.
This book presents the histories of some common words, showing how they have arrived at their present use and form. Entries are grouped into nearly twenty subject areas, such as home, transport, food; for each word the author shows how it was built from existing words, or how a root word in another language has been taken borrowed by English at a given point in history. Some of the voyages are via many other languages, some direct; some of them are extraordinary, some deceptively simple. Changes of spelling and meaning over time are presented, and where there are disagreements about where a word has come from these are discussed. The material is presented clearly and simply, and is supported by references within the text to previous writers and dictionaries.
Julian Walker is an artist and writer and a former EFL teacher, the author of The Nelson Practice Book of Phrasal Verbs; he is a workshop-leader at the British Library, specializing in the English language and early books. The author lives in Cambridge, England.