Words of a Feather

Murray Suid

Words of a Feather is about word origins, organized around the concept of finding odd and unusual pairings of words that at first don’t seem related but are, both in fact and in origin. Words like “saloon” and “salon” share a common ancestry, as do words like “inflate” and “flatulence,” or “tractor-trailer” and “attraction.” The book gets a cover blurb from former poet laureate Billy Collins because poets love words the way carpenters love lumber. Even if you’re not a poet, however, it’s interesting to know that words like “salary” and “salad” are cousins, both rooted in “salt.” And did you know that “karaoke” literally means “empty orchestra” in Japanese? Me neither. Nor did I know that “karaoke” shares a root with “karate,” which literally means “empty hand.” Words of a Feather is filled with those kinds of tidbits. Some people consider that sort of knowledge trivial, but the word “trivial” is rooted in the idea of things we’re likely to encounter every day, and it’s a good thing to know a thing or two about the things we’re likely to bump into so frequently.