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The Story of English in 100 Words [Kindle Edition]

David Crystal
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
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Sold by: Macmillan
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Book Description

The world's foremost expert on the English language takes us on an entertaining and eye-opening tour of the history of our vernacular through the ages.


In The Story of English in 100 Words, an entertaining history of the world's most ubiquitous language, David Crystal draws on one hundred words that best illustrate the huge variety of sources, influences and events that have helped to shape our vernacular since the first definitively English word--'roe'--was written down on the femur of a roe deer in the fifth century. Featuring ancient words ('loaf'), cutting edge terms that relfect our world ('twittersphere'), indispensible words that shape our tongue ('and', 'what'), fanciful words ('fopdoodle') and even obscene expressions (the "c word"...), David Crystal takes readers on a tour of the winding byways of our language via the rude, the obscure and the downright surprising.



Editorial Reviews

Review

"The best word book to come down the pike in many a moon. There are “Eureka!” moments in every chapter. An ingenious idea, and only David Crystal could have pulled it off. He’s a marvel (but then we knew that already)."
--Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman, authors of Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language, and bloggers at Grammarphobia.com

About the Author

DAVID CRYSTAL, is Honorary Professor of Linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor. In 1995, he was awarded the Order of the British Empire for services to the English language. He lives in the United Kingdom.


Product Details

  • File Size: 1153 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (March 27, 2012)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006JJTGTW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #334,824 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Logophiles will enjoy this book January 8, 2012
Format:Hardcover
Like the two volumes of Foyle's Philavery which I have reviewed on Amazon earlier, this volume, by an author who has written twelve other books about the English language, makes another pleasant and entertaining gift for logophiles. Here, too, you come across some words (bone-house, bodgery, dragsman, mipela, doobry, bagonize, chillax), though nothing like as many as in the Philavery volumes - but then the purpose of this book is different: it is to show when familiar words first appeared, how in some cases the spelling has changed, how words have evolved over the years and how new words - some ephemeral, some enduring - are constantly being coined. It may not be all that interesting to discover when a word was first used, and again only a few of those evolutions - like how "glamour" evolved from "grammar" or what "lunch" originally meant - are surprising. Crystal has collected many modern coinages - acronyms, abbreviations, slang - some of which are familiar (especially those deriving from the internet), while others will not be - Obamabots, for example: people who robot-like support Barack Obama, for instance. There are also several references to regional words, used only in parts of the United Kingdom. He also has passages on American English, Australian English, pidgin English etc.

Although there are 100 sections, each with one word as its title, in fact Crystal uses many of them as triggers to talk about a great many other words. So, to give just one example, in the article headed "lakh" we also have references to "godown", "bungalow", "dungaree", "guru" and no fewer than 50 other words which English has borrowed from Indian or Arabic, or which Indian English has invented. So there is a lot of information in this book, and Crystal's enthusiasm, breadth of knowledge, and ruminations about language are very engaging.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating topic, unfortunate prose May 9, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
David Crystal is obviously a very talented writer and a careful scholar, and as a lover of his Stories of English (which I highly recommend) I wanted to like this book much more than I did. The selection of words is interesting and a number of the facts are new to me even as a reader of etymologies, including his. "Roe" is great for the archaeological insight as much as the linguistic history and Crystal is clear and funny on the idiosyncratic origins of collective nouns in "Gaggle".

The prose, and the storytelling, are where this book falls down. Parts of it read like it's meant for a ten year old--'egg', for example, features a recounting of the Caxton eggs/eyren story that I knew from Stories of English, except this version is written in Simple English for someone who's never heard of an inn before: "One of them went into a café (as we'd call it today) and asked for some 'eggs', but the lady who ran the establishment didn't understand what he wanted, and replied that she couldn't speak French. This made the sailor angry because he couldn't speak French either! He just wanted some 'eggs'." This isn't writing for amateurs--this is writing for children, and the kind of writing for children that infuriated me as a child because it talked down to me. And if his target audience is children, why the inclusion of a**e and c**t?

I could see buying a hard copy of this book to have around, but on Kindle, it's far from engaging enough to drop ten dollars on. Buy it if you need another fix of Crystal, but don't expect the light touch of his larger works.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
David Crystal's book is a series of 100 essays that launch from one of 100 select words. For example, "Garage" - word #76 - is subtitled "a pronunciation problem (20th century)" and the essay discusses variation in pronunciation. Each essay is between 2 and 3 pages long, so this is a perfect bathroom reader. Each chapter is independent, so you can flip to just about any page and start reading another essay. The book is gentle and pleasant reading, and and enjoyable way to learn more about the English language and its ongoing development.

Crystal begins his short history of English words by noting the Germanic origins of the language, even though the actual name of the language was not recording until the 10th century (#13 English). He looks at loan words (e.g., #6 street from Latin, #12 brock from Celtic and #20 skirt from Norse) and how words reflect changing views of the world (e.g., #4 loaf and #7 mead from Anglo-Saxon to #17 pork). International contacts changed the language (e.g., #33 taffeta and #39 potato). Of course, the Americas changed English with the introduction of American-Indian words (e.g., #45 skunk) and the development of its own culture (#58 Americanism). Of course, when English visits any new location, it is going to pick up new vocabulary (e.g., #48 lakh from India and #62 trek from Africa - to Star Trek!). English exhibits the creativity of its speakers, who loved to play with words (#9 riddle) and coin new expressions (#4 undeaf) and invent new words (from #83 blurb to today's #97 muggle, beloved of Harry Potter fans and geocachers).
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars IT IS NOT CRYSTAL’S BEST WORK! I have purchased David Crystal’s books...
IT IS NOT CRYSTAL’S BEST WORK!
I have purchased David Crystal’s books since I started to study English as a Foreign Language long time ago, and I got used to his style. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Núbia Vargas Marafiga
5.0 out of 5 stars Instructive and Entertaining
Fascinating glimpses into the history of the English language.
Published 8 months ago by V. Presser
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book
An interesting book, althoug it should have a better layout inside.
Published 8 months ago by Nabupolasar Alves Feitosa
3.0 out of 5 stars A Modest Work
The Story of English is a modest work in which the author cherry-picked a few words to try to cast some light on the development of our language. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Gerald B. Keane
3.0 out of 5 stars Hodgepodge of interesting word histories
This is not a history of English. This is not an etymology reference. It's something in between: going through 100 words chosen by the whim of the author, each has its story... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Kevin M. Iga
4.0 out of 5 stars 100 Words
Very interesting way to look back on the influences on current English words. May make me want something more inclusive when I have time to delve into the subject.
Published 10 months ago by V. M. Blais
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
This book covers the history of the English language in 100 words.
For those who love words and word origins this is a great book. Read more
Published 13 months ago by John Rhodes
4.0 out of 5 stars Good reading for the curious.
This is required reading if you are interested in languages, and especially English. In an ingenious way, the author delves into the background of the English language, without... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Margaret Ann Martin
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun and fascinating
David Crystal's book is a clever overview history of our complex English language. Each entry is intriguing and delightful. Read more
Published 14 months ago by D.J.
4.0 out of 5 stars fun fun fun
What a delightful romp through a thousand years of etymology. If you've got an online etymology dictionary as a favorite/bookmark, you'll love this book. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Avp
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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).

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