The Horologicon – Mark Forsyth

This is, of course, a follow-up. or companion, or sequel, or something like that to Mark’s previous book, the Etymologicon. This time, the hook is words associated with hours of the day, starting with waking up at the hideous hour of 6am, then working through breakfast, travelling to work, being at work, having lunch (generally long and boozy), getting back to work, leaving work, having something to eat and going out for a drink or twelve before going back home and into bed. But as with the previous book, the theme isn’t all that important. What makes both books worth having (and at 99p for the Kindle edition, it’s not much of a decision to make, is it?) is Mark’s lovely way with words, and I don’t just mean the carefully selected obscure words that he’s gathered from old reference books, nice as they are. No, it’s things like this:

The problem with the alphabet is that it bears no relation to anything at all, and when words are arranged alphabetically they are uselessly separated. In the OED, for example, aardvarks are 19 volumes away from the zoo, yachts are 18 volumes from the beach, and wine is 17 volumes from the nearest corkscrew.

Nicely done. And when he gets to the subject of work, he has a few interesting thoughts, including:

Thank God for modern medicine. It was not until 1905 that ergophobia (the morbid fear of returning to work) was first identified and reported in the British Medical Journal. As yet there is no known cure, but doctors have been working on it, and may get back to working on it sometime soon.

Quite right, too. And there is much more to enjoy, but I don’t want to spoil too much of it for you, so I’ll just mention this little bit from the section on having a night out:

So the question that must be asked is whether you, dear reader, are going to pull tonight. And as you, dear reader, are the sort of person who reads books on obscure words, I fear that the answer is No. It could be worse – you could be the sort of person who writes books on obscure words.

It’s the last sentence that really makes that one, I think. This is, like the Etymologicon, hard to type without thinking, and great fun[1]. As indeed is Mark’s Inky Fool blog.

[1] Assuming your’e the sort of person who enjoys obscure words, that is. And if you’re not, you’re probably too busy to be reading nonsense like this…

4 thoughts on “The Horologicon – Mark Forsyth

  1. Andy B

    Picked this up for the aforementioned 99p, loved his book last year and looking forward to this one :-)

    Might even have to take a break from my current reading challenge of Discworld from book 1 through to ‘whatever he’s up to by the time I get there’…

  2. Pingback: The Etymology of Drinks | Losing it

  3. Pingback: Christmas Words from Mark Forsyth | Losing it

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