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Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language Hardcover – November 5, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0199585854 ISBN-10: 0199585857 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition edition (November 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199585857
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199585854
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 0.9 x 5.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,209,184 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Next year marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Version of the Bible. Begat joins the volumes that draw attention to the unparalleled influence of the KJV on English language and literature. Crystal, an honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor, U.K. and the author of several books including The Fight for English, undertook to search the entire KJV for every idiom (as distinct from quotations) that has become part of modern English vernacular. This book is the result of that quest. With a brief introduction and an epilogue that specifically answers the quantitative question, "How many did he find?" (answer: 257), the bulk of the book is devoted to the individual expressions and how they appear in modern popular culture. This makes for the kind of eclectic yet entertaining reading that one might tuck into a bathroom book basket. Readers can dip into the book anywhere and discover humorous and bizarre uses of biblical idioms alongside predictably sober and pious usages. An index of expressions directs readers to relevant pages. (Dec.)
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Review


"Its reach is impressive."--Washington Post


"Crystal does a great job of showing how the King James Bible played an essential role in 'begetting' the English language. Highly recommended."--Studies in Scripture


"Crystal is rightly known as a highly engaging author and one of the few linguists with a true talent for explaining highly abstract subject matter in a way that is comprehensible and enjoyable for a general readership...his approach is systematic and well chronicled."--Linguist List



More About the Author

David Crystal is honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor. He has written or edited over 100 books and published numerous articles for scholarly, professional, and general readerships, in fields ranging from forensic linguistics and ELT to the liturgy and Shakespeare. His many books include Words, Words, Words (OUP 2006) and The Fight for English (OUP 2006).

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Randy A Brown on January 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The King James Version is celebrating its 400th anniversary (1611-2011). In the past 400 years, the King James Version (KJV) has made a great impact on the English language. David Crystal, in his book Begat The King James Bible and the English Language, shows just how much the KJV has affected our language and gives many examples of words and phrases that are in our common in our daily speech.

I've read the KJV for many years and I was still amazed at how much of our language comes straight from the KJV. Crystal covers words and phrases such as "let there be light", "my brother's keeper", "two by two", "thou shalt not", "out of the mouth of babes", "heal thyself", "sowing seeds", "fly in the ointment", "seeing the light", "nothing new under the sun", "begat", and many, many more. Crystal discusses how these words and phrases have affected our modern usage of language and the impact they've had on developing the English language.

Crystal includes a comparison to other old English translations, which in itself is a fine comparative study. He further notes the importance and contributions of translators such as Wycliffe and Tyndale, among others.
Crystal does a great job of showing how the King James Bible played an essential role in `begetting' the English language. Highly recommended.

I'd like to thank Oxford University Press for this free review copy. I was not required to give a positive review. My opinions are my own.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read several books by David Crystal and have enjoyed them all. So I was looking forward to this one. What a disappointment!! It looks like he made a list of sentences and phrases from the KJB and had some grad student do a bunch of Google searches on them. Most of the book has no analysis or insights at all, just a list of websites, newspaper articles, etc. where the sentence/phrase was found.

While there are a some insightful remarks scattered here and there, if you really want to learn about the impact the KJB has had on the English language or English literature, I would read one of the many other, well-researched books on the subject.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover
It is not surprising that people attribute special strengths to their nations, or their sports teams, or their religious texts. I have heard it seriously proposed, for instance, that the Bible gives us more evidence for the existence of Jesus than we have for the existence of George Washington, or that at any given time more people are reading the Bible from cover to cover to the exclusion of all else than are reading all the current bestsellers. Here's another one: No other book has influenced the English language more than has the King James Version of the Bible. Many people, and not just religious people, but writers and even linguists think this to be true. But is it true? Can the question be answered in a reasonable way that does not lean on mere enthusiasm from the book's adherents? David Crystal, a professor of linguistics and one who has written before about English within religion, thinks the question is good enough to merit the comprehensive attempt which he details in _Begat: The King James Bible & the English Language_ (Oxford University Press). We don't talk or write the way the compilers of that great translation did when it came out in 1611, so it might seem that its influence is small, and a full comparison of current prose to that of the KJV presents too many complications to contemplate. But Crystal has looked at idioms, not quotations but quasi-proverbial expressions that have become commonplace outside of religious tradition. How many there are would indicate, especially compared to other sources, how influential the KJV has been, and Crystal has counted them up. It's an exercise fraught with subjectivity; the notion of "influence" is difficult to evaluate.Read more ›
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By dunkmack on January 1, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
How disappointing. I was looking forward to a history of how certain phrases were crafted in the Bible, but instead the book is a list of where the phrases pop up in popular culture, with very little discussion of origins.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on January 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Begat: The King James Bible & the English Language offers a powerful pick on the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, showing how the book's words and phrases appeared in the works of influential writers and politicians over the centuries right up to modern times. Chapters describe the origins and uses of over 650 commonly used expressions from the King James Bible and offer detailed insights into the revisions made by its translators. No spirituality collection should be without this!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Athena on December 7, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fascinating study of the most used phrases of the King James Bible in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and the United States. This also includes derivites of these phrases in the arts, literature, news media and advertising. The book is consise, clearly stated and does not belabor the point.
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