The title of Michael Quinion's surprise best-seller, Port Out Starboard Home and Other Language Myths, refers to a widely accepted explanation for the origin of the term 'posh'. Supposedly, the P&O shipping line used to stamp the acronym on tickets for upper-class passengers who could afford cabins with cooler breezes on certain sides of the ship plying the empire's more tropical routes. Nonsense, declares Quinion, who is a former contributor to the Oxford English Dictionary, a former assistant editor of the Oxford Dictionary of New Words and the founder of the World Wide Words website. Posh, he says, derives from the Romany or gypsy word for money or from a lazy abbreviation for polish or polished. And so another urban myth bites the dust. Quinion's book is the logical, money-spinning print version of his website (who said the web would kill the printed word?) - a rather dull-looking newsletter-style affair that nonetheless attracts some 200,000 hits a week. Bill Bryson had a notable success with his etymological travelogue Mother Tongue. Although drier in tone, Quinion's is more up to date, and perhaps more far-reaching, representing as it does his scouring of the internet and its infinite resources - a practice commonly called 'computer-aided journalism'. Another etymological myth Quinion dispatches is that the term 'crap' derives from the name of the Victorian sanitary-ware and toilet manufacturer Thomas Crapper. Not so, he says. It's either from the old French crappe, meaning to waste or reject, or from 'croppin ken', an old Scottish term for a privy. And then there's the British cartoon series Captain Pugwash, which many Brits will swear included the characters Seaman Staines, Master Bates and Roger the cabin boy. More nonsense, says Quinion. There were never any such double entendre-laden names. Quinion also gives the correct derivation of Homer Simpson's oft-repeated, family-friendly cuss 'doh!': it was used by Scottish actor James Finlayson, who appeared in many Laurel and Hardy films. With its easy to dip into A-Z format, Port Out Starboard Home is a handy reference guide. But what explains its rise to the top 10 of the sales charts? In part, it's that it shares attributes with Lynne Truss' successful Eats, Shoots and Leaves: it's about words, and was also serialised in Britain's biggest-selling broadsheet, The Daily Telegraph. Quinion didn't start out as an etymologist: his first book was about cider-making. It didn't become a best-seller - so don't say it did.