Port Out, Starboard Home and Other Language Myths by Michael Quinion Penguin, $116 When David Howard, head of the Public Advocate Office in Washington, told a black colleague he was going to 'have to be niggardly with this fund because it's not going to be a lot of money', he hardly expected the ensuing outcry that cost him his job. After all, 'niggardly' has a fine linguistic lineage dating back to 14th-century English, Michael Quinion tells us, and it probably came from Old Norse before that. He says he was one of many language writers to try to explain that being miserly or stingy is not a racial slur, but, alas, 'perception is everything and etymology is nowhere'. Quinion has good credentials, as a researcher and adviser to the Oxford English Dictionary who keeps his ear finely tuned via his website and e-mail newsletter World Wide Words. He has a passion for exposing the folk mythology of meanings (and explaining how meanings change) that makes Port Out, Starboard Home a delight. For those who sometimes feel their English is lacking, be assured that even native speakers sometimes have no idea what they're saying either.