Et Cetera, Et Cetera: Notes of a Word-Watcher

Lewis Thomas, Author Little Brown and Company $17.95 (197p) ISBN 978-0-316-84099-6
These short essays by the author of Lives of a Cell reflect Thomas's fascination with the origins of words and their historical percolation. By tracing certain words in common use millennia ago ( wopsa , for instance) from, say, an Indo-European root through Old Norse or Middle Dutch or Old Icelandic, he demonstrates how such words are remarkably similar to their descendants in modern English ( wasp ). Many words he finds both ``lovely and lovable'' ( civility , for example), but not all. Looking askance at offal , he would do away with surly , and happily explains why. Thomas points out that children make language, citing a grandson's amusing coinage. Commenting that a universal language is probably inevitable, he briefly inquires into the Gaia theory (Planet Earth as living organism). These and other minor excursions are firmly tied to his overall theme: language not only binds and unites us, it is what makes us unique. Thomas's gentle ruminations will be enjoyed by those who share his etymological enchantment. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/1990
Release date: 10/01/1990
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 197 pages - 978-1-56649-166-2
Paperback - 208 pages - 978-0-14-015875-5
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