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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 10, No. 9. June 25, 1947

Weekley on Words

Weekley on Words

The history of men, civilisations and ideas is reflected in the history of words. The personality of a man is also mirrored in his use of words, as is Professor Weekley's in his latest collection of word-blographies, "Words Ancient and Modern" (John Murray, 1946). He points a naughty bourgeois finger at "Beau-monde, Bohemia, and Bolshevia," and indulges in many octogenarian reminiscences while tracing with a loving eye the romantic history of his chosen words. He makes biographical short stories out of one word, and succeeds, it must be said, in conveying something of his own enthusiasm and interest.

In the first chapter, a la Plutarch, he deals with the established histories of words such as beefeater, bourgeois, gossoon, pikestaff, soviet, etc., but in the second he goes into a little original research on words like cozen, demure and foil. Many of the biographies are controversial, and an amateur philologist may amuse himself in criticising this god of the world of tongues—for instance, he may find the evidence for the vicissitudes of "plot" too unconvincing.

The book has been written both for the purpose of entertainment so solid fact is interlarded with a scholarly invective and with which, even if it seems to be accompanied by an old man's cackle, helps to make the whole work an entertaining night's reading.

"Words Ancient and Modem." Ernest Weekley. Our copy from Modem Books. 11/3.