Dear Dr. Boli: I know that the word “motel” is a sort of portmanteau word meaning motor hotel. But where does the word hotel come from? There ought to be some sort of book in which one could find the answers to questions like this. —Sincerely, the Rev. W. W. Skeat, Ll.D.

Dear Sir: You have hit upon one of the most fascinating problems in our English vocabulary; for, while it is true that motel is a portmanteau meaning motor hotel, it is also true that hotel is a portmanteau meaning horse motel. This curiously circular paradox was the observation that founded the science of quantum etymology, whose counter-intuitive principles reject the classical notion of cause and effect in word development.