Friday, November 02, 2012

Book Review - The Horologicon

The Horologicon
A Day's Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English Language

By Mark Forsyth

Published by Icon Books, Nov 1st, 2012
For anyone who loves words, is intrigued by words, is baffled by words, or just likes to use intriguing words, this book would make the perfect present.

I actually fall into all of the above categories, so I settled down to read this with enormous anticipation and I was definitely not disappointed. For those of us who like browsing in dictionaries, but would like something novel, Mark Forsyth has come up with a remarkably clever plan of structuring unusual words according to the hour(s) of the day when one would be most likely to need them. Hence we start at dawn, with the dreaded alarm clock and debating whether to get up or feign illness, followed by washing and dressing, having breakfast, and so on. This provides time and space for the introduction and elucidation of interesting words and snippets of history and geography too, in some entries, especially 4pm, which is devoted to Tea.

The very first word in the book, the Old English "uhtceare", has only ever been recorded once, and means to lie awake before dawn worrying. Most of us have done this at least once, so it is a shame this potentially useful little word doesn't enjoy popular acclaim. One can only hope it will find a new lease of length after the publication of The Horologicon ! I was familiar with a handful of words through havng read the books of the wonderful Georgette Heyer, who was a rigorous researcher, determined to make her portrayal of the Regency period accurate to the minutest detail, but I have found dozens and dozens of new words to delight me and quite possibly drive the rest of my family insane.

If you've ever wanted to find a way to use the immortal phrase "night-foundered vicambulist" - a street walker who has got lost in the darkness, look no further, for this is definitely the book for you.
Share with friends using the share button below.


Huw Richardson said...

This sounds absolutely wonderful! Thank you for reviewing it. It seems as it it's not yet available in the states, but I shall keep my eye out! Have you read his earlier work, "The Sunday Times Best Seller, 'The Entymologicon'"?

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

Huw, I haven't read his other book. I will definitely be looking out for it next time I'm near a decent bookshop :-)