Wilton, David. Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
The paperback version of Word Myths is available.
Did you ever think that Ring Around The Rosie makes reference to the Black Death of the Middle Ages? Or that the whole nine yards refers to the length of a machinegun ammo belt? Or perhaps that Eskimos have 500 words for snow? If so, then you have been taken in by a linguistic urban legend. Like classic urban legends, these linguistic legends are popular and pervasive. Instead of propagating cautionary tales about the dangers of modern life, linguistic urban folklore propagates stories and “facts” about language.
Copyright 1997-2013, by David Wilton