Monday, March 14, 2005

Book: Word Myths

I am reading, and am surprisingly entertained by, the book Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends by David Wilton. I am generally interested in words, though I doubted I would enjoy a whole book about them. I tend to read books about writing. But I also enjoy books about urban legends, and have read several. (Check out anything by Jan Harold Brunvand.) I have also read several books that debunk things, like paranormal claims. (Check out anything by James Randi).

So when you combine words, urban legends, and debunking . . . well, I'm there.

For example, the word OK did not come from a misspelling of "all correct" as "oll korrect" (and hence OK) by president Andrew Jackson, or from "Old Kinderhook," a nickname for president Martin Van Buren. Both those theories contain some truth, though. It originated as an abbreviation of "oll korrect" as a joke in the Boston Morning Post newspaper in 1839 and caught on in the 1840 presidential election in which Van Buren ran.

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