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It’s only words

As the subtitle states, this is a book about the hidden lives and strange origins of common and not-so-common words.

books Updated: May 21, 2012 15:12 IST

The Dord, The Diglot, and an Avocado

Everybody knows the resident word nut. He’s either spotting your split infinitives or making a point about how ‘hoi polloi’ doesn’t need to be ‘the hoi polloi’.

So why don’t you shut him up for a while by buying him a copy of Anu Garg’s The Dord, The Diglot, and an Avocado or Two (Plume, Rs 225).

As the subtitle states, this is a book about the “hidden lives and strange origins of common and not-so-common words”.

Garg, the creator of the website, A.Word.A.Day, (http://wordsmith.org/awad) has chapters like ‘Tasty Words’ (Deipnosophist: a good conversationalist at meals), ‘Fictional Characters Who Come Alive’ (Throttlebottom: a purposeless incompetent in public office, from the first Pulitzer-winning musical comedy, Of Thee I Sing), and ‘Ultimately We Are All Related’ (‘Hibernation’ is derived from the Indo-European root ghei (winter) from which the name ‘Himalaya’ also comes from through the Sanskrit ‘him’ (snow), which in turn comes from ‘hiemal’ (related to winter)).

The word ‘Dord’ in the title of the book is an extinct synonym for ‘density’, while ‘avocado’ originates from the Aztec language Nahuatl for ‘testicle’. To find out what ‘Diglot’ means, read this slim, fun book.