It’s not exactly a beach read, but I just finished a fascinating book called Reading the OED by Ammon Shea, who spent a year reading all 21,730 pages of the Oxford English Dictionary.
Along the way I learned such wonderful un-spellcheck-friendly words as acnestis (the point on your back you can’t reach to scratch), cacchinator (a person who laughs too much) and keck (the sound you make just before you vomit).
As a writer, I am fond of words — so fond, in fact, that I invented one once. Or at least I helped.
The study of words is called etymology. If you study the origin of the names, that’s called onomastics. Exploring the origins of place names is toponymy. And if you’re interested in working out the origins of personal names, you’re engaged in anthroponomastics.
While working on a radio documentary about the origins of band names, I found that there was no such word for that field of mateotechny (an unprofitable science).
This was unconscionable. Many books have been written about how bands got their names. How could this discipline itself be nameless? I decided to consult some real onomasticians.