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The Story of English in 100 Words Kindle Edition

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Length: 288 pages

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Crystal's book is full of distractions and delights Daily Express One of [Crystal's] best ... it builds gradually into a kind of linguistic tapestry, packed with abstruse information, wonderfully readable Spectator If the history of language is a sort of labyrinth, David Crystal is an excellent guide The Age, Australia Delicious revelations ... Crystal does an excellent job, not just of tracing the etymology of a word, but of relating it to social history, painting a picture of our times through words Independent on Sunday

About the Author

David Crystal is the foremost expert on English, and honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor. He has written many books and published articles in fields ranging from forensic linguistics and ELT to the liturgy and Shakespeare.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1697 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (October 13, 2011)
  • Publication Date: October 13, 2011
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005FQ1GSO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #433,625 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Victoria E. Davis on December 20, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have been thoroughly enjoying reading this book, one chapter at a time. I've learned so much and will be very sorry when I have finished it. My only criticism is of my purchase. I should have bought a printed copy, rather than the Kindle copy, of this book because I would like to loan it to so many people.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Guido van Rossum on June 17, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I bought this after reading a quite positive review in the San Francisco Chronicle's Books section, since I have an ongoing interest in the English language. (It's not my mother tongue, but I feel I've mastered it quite well after living in the US for 17 years.) Sadly, while it was often amusing, the work did not live up to my expectations.

It's perhaps best described as 100 short "columns" about random aspects of etymology and word formation. Each column takes specific word as a starting point, but usually that word is just a conversation starter. Sadly, many of the conversations don't go very deep. The least interesting ones degenerate in long lists of words that "also" follow a specific pattern. The best ones taught me interesting things I didn't know before, but there just weren't enough of these. Some of the worst ones seemed to just be improvisations, discussing some of the author's opinions on non-language-related subjects or telling almost-funny jokes.

The author is also quite keen on the new words brought to us by the age of the Internet. Sadly, he appears to be a rather casual Internet user and doesn't have much to add. Often when he tries to show off his knowledge of Internet jargon he misses the mark by emphasizing terms already obsolete or getting them slightly wrong. I suspect he's using some secondary sources.

All in all, not a total waste, but hardly the best $11 I've ever spent.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The "Story of English in 100 Words" is intended to merge two approaches to writing about the English language. One approach is to discuss themes and trends within major periods of development, as author David Crystal has done in other volumes. Another approach involves "wordbooks" or "phrase books" that examine the etymology of particular words or the origins of certain phrases. In an effort to reconcile these two techniques, Crystal has selected the 100 words he offers here because each tells part of the story of how the English language developed, all the way through to contemporary usage.

Crystal largely succeeds in his attempt, though I think the result still ends up being more of an etymology book than a systemic history of English. Still, it's a fun and highlighy readable narrative, and as a bonus you'll actually learn the stories of far more than 100 words--while each of the 100 chapters uses a single word as its starting point, Crystal introduces many other words and phrases for illustration and comparison.

There are plenty of illuminating moments. Chapter 4, for example, explores the history of the word "loaf", a word that started out as the Anglo-Saxon "hlaf" during the 9th Century. The head of a household was a "hlaf-weard," literally a bread warden; the woman of the house was a "hlaefdige," a bread-kneader (the word "dige" is related to the modern "dough"). Hlaf-weard changed in the 14th century, as people quit pronouncing the "f", leading eventually to "lahrd" and finally to "lord." (Although Crystal doesn't mention it in this book, the Anglo-Saxon "hlaefdige" gradually evolved into "lady".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alan Buckle on March 24, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It will do. I do not regret purchasing the book; it gave value for money but was perhaps somewhat insufficient. But do buy it, and knowing when doing so that you will pass it on; it is a book that is to be shared.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I just LOVED reading this book.

A few years ago I read Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson and I enjoyed it thoroughly. But I bet that this tiny little tome will have a longer-lasting effect on my appreciation of the English language.

Not only is the author the consummate master of his topic, he's also head over heels in love with it. No exaggeration, you get the feeling he narrowed it down to 100 from his favorite 10,000 words. He weaves in the Celtic, the Anglo-Saxon, the Viking, the Latin and the Norman / French, but does not forget the American, the Indian or even the Pidgin and he goes looking for the medical and the Internet terms that have crept into the language too. As a Greek, and one who speaks five languages, I'm rather miffed he never refers to the Greek roots of several English words, but I regardless thought this was a masterpiece.

What we have here is a celebration of the English Language, rather than a mere story, basically. Reading this book is a bit like having the curator of the British Museum take you through his favorite ten exhibits. You get the history, the context, the evolution, everything.

I'm jealous of David Crystal. He gets paid to share his life's biggest passion.
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By J. Grear on August 30, 2012
Format: Paperback
I decided to buy this book after hearing the author on NPR. I almost never write reviews for products I buy, but this was a great book that anyone could easily read and appreciate. As per the author's preface, this is not an encyclopedia of word origins. It offers much information about word families and language evolution covering topics such as clipping, blends, functional shifts, eponyms and the like. Indeed, because of this, far more than 100 words are covered. While some may criticize Crystal's choices, I like that I'm in the passenger seat as one expert takes me on a journey of his favorites.
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