What Is The Origin Of The Word Blurb”?

You read the blurb on the back of a book to figure out if you want to shell out the extra bucks for the hardcover. You glance at the blurb on a DVD before deciding if that film is the one to enjoy that evening.

A good blurb provides a short summary or praise of a creative work, but it doesn’t give anything away. It whets the appetite.

People have been slathering praise on each other in writing and spreading hype for longer than you might think. In ancient Egypt the concept was known as taqriz.

But the word “blurb” came about in 1907 with the publication of a book by humorist, nonsense verse writer, and San Francisco bohemian Gelett Burgess. Among his most famous work is a poem called “Purple Cow.”

I never saw a purple cow;
I never hope to see one;
but I can tell you anyhow;
I’d rather see than be one!

At the time, it was customary to have a dust jacket that promoted a book. Featured on the dust jacket for Burgess’ “Are You a Bromide?” was a picture of a woman comically named “Miss Belinda Blurb” and the quote “YES, this is a ‘BLURB’!”

(A bromide is a term in chemistry and pharmacology. But it also refers to a trite saying or boring or conventional person.)

Over time the publishing industry adopted the term “blurb.” And now, blurbs are found almost anywhere there’s printed text — from news sites to cereal boxes to CD covers.

We enjoy covering the eccentric corners of the English language. For example, the story of what “TASER” stands for is truly bizarre. (Read about that, here.) We’re also quite fond of the absurd term used on Wall Street, a “quadruple witching day.” (Find out what that actually means, here.)

Is there a word or phrase that we collectively take for granted, but you think is ludicrous for some reason? Let us know, below.

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