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Michael Quinion

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Michael Quinion

Michael Quinion in his office

Michael Quinion (born c. 1943) is a British etymologist and writer.[1] He runs World Wide Words, a website devoted to linguistics. He graduated from Cambridge University, where he studied physical sciences after which he joined BBC radio as a studio manager.


Quinion has contributed extensively to the Oxford English Dictionary as well as the Oxford Dictionary of New Words (Second Edition, 1996). He has since written Ologies and Isms[1] (a 2002 dictionary of affixes) and Port Out, Starboard Home: And Other Language Myths (2004), published in the US as Ballyhoo, Buckaroo, and Spuds: Ingenious Tales of Words and Their Origins[n 1]

His most recent book is Gallimaufry: A Hodgepodge of Our Vanishing Vocabulary (2006). He wrote two books about orcharding and cidermaking, one titled Cidermaking (published by Shire Publications), the other, A Drink for Its Time, published by the Cider Museum in Hereford, where he served as curator.[2]

World Wide Words

Quinion is the author and webmaster of World Wide Words, a site that documents the meaning and derivation of English language words and phrases. It covers a wide range of issues, including etymology, grammar, neologisms, writing style and book reviews. This site explores International English from a British viewpoint. The website features a large database of word-related topics, weird words, articles on word and phrase origins, and answers to questions from site visitors. It also offers a free weekly newsletter, which contains the latest additions to the database one week before they are posted on the website. The time delay allows for newsletter subscribers to respond with additional insights and comments, some of which may be included on the posted articles. On 18 October 2014, Quinion announced that in future his newsletters would be published less frequently because writing a scheduled weekly newsletter had become increasingly arduous.

A recurring theme in Quinion's articles is the criticism of false etymology. Such popular etymologies often have the effect of obscuring the true origins of a word or expression by providing a misleading and often unsubstantiated story explaining its origin. Quinion's Port Out, Starboard Home (Ballyhoo, Buckaroo, and Spuds in the US) deals with many such etymologies.



  1. ^ Port Out Starboard Home: And Other Language Myths is published outside the USA by Penguin Books (Hardcover ISBN 0-14-051534-8/Paperback ISBN 0-14-101223-4)
    In the United States it is published by the Smithsonian Institution Press as Ballyhoo, Buckaroo, and Spuds (Hardcover ISBN 1-58834-219-0/Paperback ISBN 0-06-085153-8)


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ Michael Quinion personal page; accessed 25 February 2014.

External links

  • World Wide Words
  • Michael Quinion personal page

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