The Words of the Day
The Unlikely Evolution of Common English
Dr. Steven M. Cerutti PhD.
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ISBN 13: 978-0976157335
Library of Congress
pages - Perfect Bind 9x7
Pedagogue Series # 1
The English language was largely
influenced by the ancient languages of the Romans and the
Greeks, and this entertaining and educational book shows the
amazing origins of words that we use everyday.
Let Dr. Cerutti show you how to
sharpen your word usage, sharpen the dull edge of your
vernacular, blunted over the years by hearing, reading and
speaking words that you have never truly understood.
Combining Dr. Cerutti's
authoritative command over the English language with uncanny
scholarship and his own unique wry wit, this book is a must-read
for anyone who has ever wondered about common word usage.
* Learn the
amazing origins of profane words
how words dramatically change meaning in just a few
* Learn words to insult your enemies without their knowledge
* Make up words to say exactly what you mean
* Learn how words have come to mean the opposite of what
they actually mean
* Learn to insult your enemies without their knowledge
* Understand the real meaning of our numbers
About the Author:
Dr. Steven M. Cerutti
Dr. Steven M. Cerutti
a Ph.D. in Classics from Duke University and is an
internationally recognized expert on word origins.
Considered one of the world's leading authorities on
Classical literature, art, and architecture, Dr. Cerutti is
a professor of Classical Studies at East Carolina University
where his courses are consistently voted "most popular"
among the over 20,000 undergraduate student population.
Steve is also a private pilot and enjoys flying with his
wife, Chandra, who is an instructor of English Literature
and Composition at East Carolina University. Both Steve and
Chandra are classically trained pianists and enjoy
performing at informal faculty gatherings or formal
Dr. Steven M. Cerutti has been studying words for decades and specializes
in understanding the unlikely origins of English words and phrases.
With a genius for making word origins fun, Professor Cerutti
mesmerizes young minds with his exciting and shocking insights into
the roots of modern jargon.
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1: Mixology: How words Work
Chapter 2: Word Power
Chapter 3: The “F” Word: Part One
Chapter 4: Vowel Movements
Chapter 5: Going Negative
Chapter 6: School Words
Chapter 7: The Body Eclectic
Chapter 8: Everybody Do the Wave
Chapter 9: True Lies
Chapter 10: Copping the “‘tude”
Chapter 11: Money, Money
Chapter 12: Pornography: How To Know It When You See It
Chapter 13: The “F” Word Part 2
Chapter 14: It Was All Greek To Them (And Still Is)
Chapter 15: How Words Change
Chapter 16: Let’s Get Small
Chapter 17: The Ten Most Misused Words
Chapter 18: Anagrams and Stop Signs
Chapter 19: Big Hat, Small Heard
Chapter 20: Bringing It All Together
Reader comments and
"Almost a year ago Dr. Cerutti received a
phone call from Don Burleson, whose son Andrew was in his class and
couldn't stop talking about it. Don Burleson is a publisher (Rampant
Press) and was very interested in codifying his class. "I was
blown away", said Cerutti."
"Cerutti's curriculum is thus entertaining in addition to being
educational. As such, his Classics 1300 was voted the university's
most popular class in a student poll taken by campus newspaper The
East Carolinian a few years ago."
"After class one day, his
office phone rang. It was the father of one of his students. "My son
can't stop talking about your class," the man said to Cerutti. "I
happen to run an independent publishing house. I would like to
codify your class into a book." From that conversation, Cerutti
received a contract to distill his Greek and Latin for Vocabulary
Building course into a book."
A great book by a great man..., August 3, 2006
Being a former student of Dr. Cerutti's, I am a little
biased. But I took the class to which he refers in his text,
and it was even funnier than the book itself. I thoroughly
enjoyed this book, as did some of my colleagues who also
read it. I remember the day he wrote a big "FA" on the board
and then proceeded to lecture away, just as he did in the
chapter on "fa" and "pha". Overall, a very pleasant
adaptation of his class.
Scholar? Comedian? BOTH!!, April 9, 2006
Cerutti's previous books have all been Greek to me but this
one was written in the universal language of humor, making
it accessible even to those of us who are not classicists!
This book will teach you about the origins of words and
expressions we use every day as well as Greek and Roman
mythology. Best of all, you'll laugh your [...] off through
the whole thing (and you'll probably blush a bit too).
Cerutti's WORDS is for anyone who is educated, who wants to
become educated, who wants to appear educated, or who wants
to laugh at others who think they're educated. I'm hoping
for a sequel!
I loved this book!, March 19, 2006
I bought this book on a tip from a friend who said it helped
her hugely on the verbal portion of the GRE, plus she said
it was the funniest thing she had ever read. I am getting
ready to take the SAT so I read it and she was right! This
book makes understanding words not only easy, but fun, too!
The author is a great storyteller, and knowing the stories
behind the words helps you remember what they mean much
better than memorizing flashcards. This book actually makes
you feel smarter. I plan to read it again right before I
take the test! Wish me luck! But with Cerutti's Words of the
Day under my belt, I know I'll do fine.
Homer meets Andrew Dice Clay, March 16, 2006
This book takes you on a roller-coaster ride through the
classical origins of the English language from page one!
Cerutti has a feel for Greek and Roman mythology that I've
never encountered before, and I was a classics major as an
undergrad! I learned more about the classical world from
reading this book than I did in college. And it's extremely
funny! Try "Homer meets Andrew Dice Clay!" I found myself
laughing out loud dozens of times. Chapter five, on the
sexual exploits of Apollo is worth the price of the book
alone. This book would make an excellent gift for anyone
with a healthy sense of humor and a keen interest in
words--even the "naughty" ones. This book rocks!
Great and fun book!, March 11, 2006
I greatly enjoyed this book as an introduction to the
ancestry of English. It is a fun read and has some really
funny stories about word origins.
Blending the Classics with Cussing
By Steve Tuttle
Classics 1300 was voted No. 1 in a
campus newspaper popularity poll by students who raved about
the professor—Dr. Steven Cerutti—and his entertaining
lectures, which always begin by exploring the origins of a
“word of the day.” Cerutti usually chooses words that typify
the strong Latin or Greek roots of many common English
words. But sometimes he selects a shocker.
fornication, for example, one recent word of the day. To
explain how the word came to mean having sex outside
marriage, Cerutti gave a lesson in Roman architecture, which
was defined by its use of graceful arches. The Latin root
word for arch is fornic, so any large building using many
arches was a fornication. Similarly, a building with walls
strengthened against attack was a fortification.
good example of fornication architecture in Rome was the
Circus Maximus, where vendors sold wine and bread from shops
set up under the arches of the palatial stadium. To attract
customers to the arena on days without chariot races, some
shops became brothels. Randy Romans of the day would cloak
their reasons for visiting the Circus Maximus by saying,
wink, wink, that they were going “arching.”
Cerutti has compiled that and many other illuminating peeks
inside the English language for a new book,
Words of the Day: The
Unlikely Evolution of Common English. It’s the fifth
he’s written on the topic and it’s required reading in his
class this semester. The book is illustrated by ECU student
“It’s unfortunate that everyone seems to
focus on the off-color words we examine in class and in the
book,” Cerutti says. “But I believe strongly that you can’t
fully understand and appreciate our language without knowing
how it evolved.” Not studying some words—the four-letter
kind—would be like studying European history and omitting
Stalin just because he was a bad man, Cerutti says. He is
careful to warn students in the class syllabus that those
with sensitive ears may be offended by some words discussed
in class. However, all the blue words can be found in the
Oxford English Dictionary.
Some come to class already
aware that English is constantly evolving, and not just
those driving freshly painted and repaired cars. Until this
generation, pimp was an off-color word meaning a shady
character who controls prostitutes. Now it has morphed from
a noun to a verb and acquired a positive image, as in “pimp
of the Day, Cerutti reminds readers that words are
powerful and should be used with precision. He cites the
example of the former Virginia lieutenant governor who once
commented that a looming budget deficit meant the state
would have to be niggardly in its spending on certain
programs. “He used the word absolutely correctly, meaning
the state had scanty or meager resources. But some people
thought he was making a disparaging remark about
African-Americans. It caused such a ruckus he had to
Most students take the class as an elective
to satisfy degree requirements in General
Education/Humanities. But many come back for more, which
explains the interest in Cerutti’s other classes,
Introduction to the Classical World 2000, Women in Classical
Antiquity 2400, The Ancient City Rome 3400 and The Ancient
City Pompeii 3410.
When he came to ECU in 1992 after
finishing his doctorate at Duke University, Cerutti was
asked to improve the university’s offerings in the classics.
He expanded the classical studies program, redesigned the
Latin curriculum and introduced Greek. Nearly half of the
more than 60 classes now offered by the department explore
classic languages, arts and culture. For the modern minded,
the department also offers French, German, Spanish, Russian,
Japanese and Italian.
Cerutti says he was inspired
to write Words of the Day
during a tour of the Tower of London, where a guide
explained that the condemned once were required to pay the
executioner for chopping off their heads. If the sack of
money offered tipped the scales favorably, the executioner
would use his sharp axe, not the dull one. From that ghastly
exchange, Cerutti learned, have grown the concepts of
“tipping” and “severance pay.”
Errata and Enhancements