The Horologicon by Mark Forsyth: A Collection of Beautiful Words

In The Horologicon, Mark Forsyth gives an overview of some the most beautiful forgotten English words he found in old

In The Horologicon, Mark Forsyth gives an overview of some the most beautiful forgotten English words he found in old libraries and dictionaries. It’s the perfect handbook to your vocabulary, and it can also be read purely for enjoyment.

Words for ever hour of the day

Horologicon means “a book of the hours.” Forsyth doesn’t give an ordinary listing of specific words and their definitions but categorises them to the hours of the day in which they are most likely to be used. According to Forsyth, organising words in alphabetical order makes no sense, because it would mean a word like “wine is 17 volumes from the nearest corkscrew.” Moreover, the specific hourly format enables you to look up a word according to the time of day you might really need it, whenever you can’t come up a specific word, or are simply in need of some impressive words.

A reference book that you cannot stop reading

Forsyth presents the book as purely a reference book and even warns the reader in the introduction: “You should on no account attempt to read it cover to cover. If you do, Hell itself will hold no horrors for you. Neither the author and his parent company will not accept liability for any suicides, rampages gun or gun crazed nudity that may result.” Despite this warning, it’s difficult to put the book down once you started reading the introduction. Although it is at your own risk, I nevertheless recommend you to read the entire book from start to finish. Not only because there are some real gems to be found between all the old forgotten words, but also because Forsyth’s writing style itself is extremely entertaining.

Interesting facts and anecdotes

Forsyth weaves all the unusual words together by surrounding them with all their special histories and fantastic anecdotes that come with them. At 7 o’clock in the morning he discusses for example the word “curglaff”: the reaction of the body when it’s hit with cold water with the galloping of your heart and gasping for breath, but he also casually refers to the shower curtain effect which is when you turn on the shower and the shower curtain suddenly starts sticking to your body. In the 4 to 5 P.M. chapter, which is dedicated solely to drinking tea (it’s an English book, after all), he at one point discusses the word “tasseography”: the old habit of predicting the future by the reading of tea leaves and here he digresses into giving a list of the most important forms which can be recognized and interpreted in the tea leaves.

An instant smile

On top of all the beautiful words and astonishing information, The Horologicon offers us a large amount of humour. From delightful puns to hilarious jokes, as soon as you open this book it‘s hard to suppress a smile. The bite-sized chapters arranged by the hours of the day not only make it easy to quickly find a word you were looking for, but also allow you to take in quick refreshing pieces of non-fiction (e.g. before bed or on the train), and continue with your day completely inspired and happy.

The Horologicon is available from Icon Books starting at £12.99. Photo courtesy of the publisher.

Have you read The Horologicon? What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.