How on earth did the word “silly” evolve from meaning “holy” to “goofy” in a mere thousand years? What do you call a twice-baked cake consumed by Roman soldiers? We clodhoppers may not know the answers (spoiler: the latter is a biscuit), but carrytale (“wandering storyteller”) Phil Cousineau has long mined the obscure territory of word origins with great erudition, and the North Beach resident is here to help. A well-known logophile, Cousineau is an award-winning writer of more than 25 books, and tonight he’s speaking about his latest, The Painted Word: A Treasure Chest of Remarkable Words and Their Origins, the follow-up to his popular 2010 book of word stories, Wordcatcher. Artwork by Greed Chadwick illustrates the talk, as it does the book. Still not convinced? Let’s take some advice from our friend Lemony Snicket: “A mystogague, a carrytale and a thaumaturge, Cousineau makes us Argus-eyed to the ubuntu of the apocryphal and Gemütlichkeit it provides, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you definitely need this book.” Well, there was that charming mystagogue who fooled us into joining a mysterious cult that one time, and, oh, you know what? Forget it. Just go see this fabulist, and let him satisfy your etymological curiosity.
Thu., Jan. 10, 6 p.m., 2013