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By Hook or By Crook Hardcover – May 1, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-1590200612 ISBN-10: 1590200616 Edition: 1St Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Hardcover; 1St Edition edition (May 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590200616
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590200612
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 6.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,450,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Linguist Crystal (How Language Works) elucidates the serendipitous nature of language study as he meanders from Wales to San Francisco by way of England and Poland, taking every opportunity for linguistic exploration. A somewhat rambling travelogue is paired with Crystal's idiosyncratic thought processes, and the book is full of descriptive anecdotes culminating in linguistic intrigue. Often something simple such as an impromptu Good morning from a Welsh shepherd is the trigger, in this case prompting the history of the shepherd's crook of the book's title. Crystal searches for—and finds—surprising topics in the lush cultures surrounding him, including the etymology of the name of a Welsh town which contains 58 letters (it's Llanfairpwll for short), causing him to speculate on why words containing consonants like m, n, l, and r are considered the most beautiful, to discuss the linguistic processes of a wordplayer and to conclude with a version of Hamlet in which every word begins with h. In a conversational style that includes plenty of quirky facts, Crystal captures the exploratory, seductive, teasing, quirky, tantalizing nature of language study, and in doing so illuminates the fascinating world of words in which we live. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Crystal has been dubbed a latter-day Samuel Johnson, and with good reason, as evidenced by the long list of academic studies penned by the distinguished linguist, among them, How Language Works (2006). However, it is Professor Henry Higgins, popularized on stage and screen, that he most often cites in this delightful book, which is part travelogue, part memoir, and part meditation on the intellectual and emotional underpinnings of language. Hired to work on a BBC project celebrating the range of present-day British English accents and dialects, he took off for a series of ports of call throughout Wales and other parts of the UK. His encounters with the locals, described with exceptionally dry humor and an eye for the entertaining detail, are often priceless. So it is that he ends up in a discussion with a farmer on the difference in bleats between Scottish and Welsh sheep, or is greeted with much pity by shopkeepers in Portmeirion, the location for the 1960s cult TV program The Prisoner, when he can’t resist parroting phrases from the show. What is most seductive about Crystal’s narrative, though, is the fascinating glimpse it provides into the quicksilver mind of a man who is so knowledgeable and yet still so curious about our mercurial language. --Joanne Wilkinson

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

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Stomps on June 14, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very well written, informative and interesting. Although the book is very Britain-centric, not surprising since this is a trip through England and Wales, there are many examples of the roots of American and other developing International English-es.
Highly recommended and I will certainly read other books by David Crystal.
SWalking English: A Journey in Search of Language
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Format: Hardcover
The author describes his book as a serendipitous linguistic travelogue, rather "stream-of-consciousness" in style. To me, it seemed much more orderly and coherent than most s.o.c. writing. The text is logical and straightforward, written in traditional plain English. The subject matter is, however, a rapidly changing "thought collage" of fragmentary observations. Each chapter, which is set in a different city, contains a running commentary about language, historical events, and the linguist/semanticist author's personal associations which arise in response to the local surroundings he's passing through. The salient points he makes seldom extend over more than a few pages, sometimes over only a few sentences, so the book lends itself well to brief reading sessions. A good bedside book. Without concern about forgetting the thread and details of one long main discourse as with most books, the reader who grows weary can stick in a bookmark at the end of any bit of brief commentary and return when in a mood to take up the journey again. I've read the book in small takes over a very long period of time. It's so chock-full of fascinating information and observation that I want to re-read it again at least once. Besides being a factual feast augmented by the author's imagination and erudition, there's a lot of delightful humor along the way.

I found some of the most enjoyable commentary (for me personally) was associative trivia about the names of things. Three or four paragraphs were about how people often name personal objects that belong to them--not only transport objects like cars, boats, and planes, but even lawnmowers, refrigerators, and wheelbarrows. A man named his wheelbarrow Wilberforce; a woman named her hoover J. Edgar; a man named his butter-knife Marlon.
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Format: Hardcover
Which in part, to be sad, I am. Some of the reading was as dull as the sheen on village ditch water-not a tadpole-ripple in sight. Big sighs, put the bloody thing down and grumped a bit. But went back to read more. Cos he's yon clever bugger! I am not sure I would have called it a journey like; more an amble and if you treat it as such, rewarding it is. There is some odd survivors out there in the lexicon of English as it be spake. But-I note the journey is sum wot curtailed being set around the Midlands and Welsh borders. I would like to see this man take a plumb-line to the rest of the bigger shires. He would go doolally and be found burbling tied to a stake on a village green with a bowl of porridge for company. Me, a'm still getting over his clever clogs junior son's "Shakespeare on bloody toast". Wreaks haddock on the marmalade and mushy peas knowin' verbal runs runs in families. Ah well, better go off feed pidgins and chook stottie at ta spuggies. Alreet clever cloggs a'm in Australia-hurl vegemite and prawns at yon cockies.
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By Lillie B Ivy on April 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First got this book from the library and I kept wanting to hi-lite the words, I like linguistics and the study of words. The book is easy to read and has a variety of foriegn words and their origins, plus he gives the definition in the book and don't have to look them up yourself. The book is very entertaining.
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Format: Hardcover
I have snapped up everything Mr. Crystal has written. Some of it I have loved: The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language and the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. Other books weren't stellar, but always good -- until this one.

A more accurate title for this book would be "Driving around Britain, Making Notes". The great bulk of the material is a travelogue, with tales of places he went, sights he saw, and people he met. Occasionally he tosses in an observation about language, but it seems that Mr. Crystal has exhausted his cornucopia of tales about language. Quite a cornucopia it has been, but now it's empty.

Years ago, the creators of a successful television series decided to shut it down, despite the fact that it still garnered excellent ratings. They explained that they didn't want to follow the usual path of trudging on until thrown out by bad ratings; they wanted to retain the series' reputation for excellence by ending it while the creative spark was still bright.

Would that Mr. Crystal had emulated their example.
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