Mark Forsyth – The Horologicon

This ‘book of hours’ presents words lost from the English language arranged according to the hour of day. You could think of this as completing an etymological trilogy along with The Etymologicon and The Elements of Eloquence.

For me this was the lesser of the three books. Something about it didn’t quite thrill me as much as the other two. Sure there are some interesting explanations of the source of obscure words, the likes of which wouldn’t be out-of-place in an episode of QI, but there’s also a lot of peppering of obscure words with little or no explanation leaving the reader with no hope really of understanding them beyond getting the drift of what Forsyth is on about. Also it’s not really as amusing as the other books.

I guess I prefer to read about the derivation of words that are in more or less common usage rather than dredging up really obscure words and then explaining where they come from. It’s a shame that some of the words are no longer used but I can equally understand why the usage of certain words died out and to be frank they are better left dead and buried.

I can therefore only really recommend this book if you want to complete the trilogy and are a big fan of @inkyfool or the BBC Radio 4 series.

 

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