Words of a Feather
An Etymological Exploration of Astonishing Word Pairs
Rooting out etymological links between words that, at first glance, appear to have nothing to do with each other, Graeme Donald unearths much more than simple definitions: an investigation of ‘Achieve’ and ‘Handkerchief’ starts with Roman gladiators and ends with the introduction of snuff; ‘Cockpit’ and ‘Cocktail’ encompass ship’s surgeons in wooden warships and horse-racing; while ‘Panties’ and ‘Pantechnicon’ takes us back to 303 CE and the martyrdom of St Pantaleon.
The Long and the Short of It
How We Came to Measure Our World
In the seventh century a yard was as much a reckoning of the worth of some land as a set measure of its dimensions and, although the term came to mean a unit of distance, the 36-inch standard was not settled until 1855. This light-hearted compendium explores the origins of our weighing, measuring and timing systems from the Babylonian calendar to the metric system.
They Got it Wrong: Science
All the Facts that Turned Out to Be Science Fiction
Is the Earth hollow? Can lead be turned into gold? Could tobacco smoke resurrect the dead? Of course not – but some of history's greatest minds accepted these and many other scientific theories that have since been proven to be completely ridiculous. But we must not feel too superior: as well as showing why these ideas seemed so convincing, Donald also highlights other myths that persist today.