Thursday, December 16, 2010

100 Birds and How They Got Their Names

Written by Diana Wells, Illustated by Lauren Jarrett
Published byAlgonquin Books of Chapel Hill 2002

My daughter gave me this book for my birthday in early 2010.  It is a studious little book with black and white drawings at the beginning of each bird entry.
Diana Wells gives the history of the name of each bird and a few interesting facts about its naming.
An example is this excerpt from her entry on Jay.

          "The English name "jay" comes from the Old French jai and was probably first used in Britain after the Norman invasion.  The name more likely came from its "gay" (brightly colored) plumage than (as is sometimes suggested) the Roman name Gaius."

Besides the general etymology of each selected bird name, she gives us tidbits of information about the bird. The type of information given is inconsistent and seems to be based on what Diana Wells thought was interesting at the time she was writing.  I usually agree with her, but some birds come off as more interesting than others.

I usually only read a few entries of the book at a time and it lends itself well to bouncing around between its covers.  It is a great bathroom read and will give its reader fun trivia to use, sparingly, in conversation.
As I have a strong interest in the meaning of words and how they were formed, I like the book and will re-read much of it, one entry at a time.


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