A rich treasure trove of etymological humour and history
The old adage – ‘you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover’ – may disagree, but we’ve all felt defeat when we see a striking picture, a fancy font, a famous face, or a well-written pitch on the reverse of our favourite tomes.
Some favour the striking austerity of The Book Thief – ‘You are going to die’ – or the magical mystery of Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, ‘the circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it… it is simply there, when yesterday it was not’. Others prefer the elegiac grace of Kay’s Trumpet, ‘When the love of your life dies, the problem is not that some part of you dies too, which it does, but that some part of you is still alive’, or the temptation of The Crimson Petal and the White’s ‘watch your step. Keep your wits about you; you will need them…’
The imaginary beauty on the back of Gelett Burgess’s book Are You a Bromide?, ‘Miss Belinda Blurb’, birthed this publishing practise and even baptised it the ‘blurb’ – and it’s just one of many etymological mavericks in The Real McCoy.
From Claire Cock-Starkey’s insightful preface that unpicks the privileges, the politics and the pitfalls of eponymology, to the epilogical pages that catalogue the eponyms into cultural classes, from the geographical to the mythological, The Real McCoy (and 149 other eponyms) is a charming romp through English etymology.
Fellow arts and culture aficionados will delight in the tale of leaping Léotard and his skin-tight outfit, dream of Pavlova’s Dying Swan while discovering the dessert, and lovingly despair of lecturer William Spooner and his tips of the slung – or, rather, slips of the tongue. Yet, there’s something for all, from algorithms to Amazons; a rich treasure trove of etymological humour and history, The Real McCoy is the perfect pocketsize gift for any literature lover.