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Globish: How the English Language Became the World's Language Hardcover – May 24, 2010

3.7 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Britannia may not rule, but it still presides over the world's discourse, according to this sketchy, triumphalist chronicle of the English language. McCrum (The Story of English), associate editor of Britain's Observer, surveys the latter-day apotheosis of English as the international language, observing Chinese English-language boot camps, Bangalore call centers, and the takeover of Britain's Man Booker prize by non-British novelists. But most of the book is a historical pageant of the English-speaking peoples as they assimilated, conquered, or enslaved foreigners and expropriated words and dialects under the leadership of statesmen/wordsmiths from King Alfred to Churchill and literary geniuses like Shakespeare and Twain. McCrum makes a pragmatic, happenstance case for the international popularity of English: the British Empire and American hegemony spread it around the planet, making it the obvious choice for a globalizing world's lingua franca. But he also advances a grander and less coherent brief for English as the language of individual freedom, democracy, and capitalism, contrasting its contagious, adaptable, populist and subversive spirit with the snobby elitism of French. That's a bit of language chauvinism that no linguistic analysis, especially one as cursory as McCrum's, can sustain. (May)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Reviewers were charmed by Globish in much the same manner as McCrum is charmed by English. They found his book expansive yet incisive, erudite yet accessible, powerful yet disarmingly cheerful, if somewhat uneven when charting the history of English through the centuries. But few critics actually accepted the book's putative argument: that English is becoming Globish and that Globish will be the language of the world. Many reviewers noted that McCrum's definition of "Globish" is flexible at best, and a few seemed exasperated by McCrum's failure to examine critically the consequences of a dominant global tongue. Read Globish for its ruminations, facts, and anecdotes--but not for its conclusions.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (May 24, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393062554
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393062557
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,416,200 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Alexander G. Davis on June 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I heard a glowing review of this book on NPR, and bought it for my Kindle within a few minutes. I have always had an intense interest both in the evolution of English and in its current spread into a global phenomenon, and so a book that looked at those two things seemed just about perfect. And what was better, the author was the guy who did that "A History of English" thing on the BBC. How could I go wrong?

Well, it wasn't a great book. It wasn't bad, but it had very little depth. A substantial portion of it was just a review of basic history, such as a description of Shakespeare's contributions or a restatement of one of Thomas Friedman's notions - and then with a tacked-on explanation of how it related to the development of Globish. The real mechanics of the process of English's evolution was seldom touched except in the most common way (i.e. a reminder that our most-used words all come from the Old). This was disappointing - I was hoping for something a little more scholarly and new. I was also disappointed in a similar way in the sections on the modern use of Globish - we are given only some light anecdotes reviewing the familiar trends of campus-educated Indians making the language their own and growing into a niche. It was about as innovative as last night's PB&J sandwich.

In short, this would probably be a great book for beginners and people unfamiliar with the things being discussed. If you weren't aware that Shakespeare coined a lot of words and that shucks we still use them today, then this is for you. But if you want something innovative and deeper, then save your money. Or I guess bring it to the beach.
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Format: Paperback
McCrum's Globish is different from both Nerrière's Globish and Gogate's Globish. McCrum does not explain the difference between Globish and English. Usually, when McCrum writes the word 'Globish', the word 'English' is apparently an equivalent alternative.

McCrum's history of English is interesting. However, McCrum sometimes writes nonsense. For example, McCrum writes, "Language, it cannot be stressed too strongly, is intrinsically neutral, but it is no contradiction to claim that English - by virtue of its origins and history - is unique."

Change 'English' to 'French' or to 'Arabic' or to 'Cantonese'. Without knowledge of the criteria that are used to evaluate uniqueness, the languages are interchangeable. For example, "Language, it cannot be stressed too strongly, is intrinsically neutral, but it is no contradiction to claim that Arabic - by virtue of its origins and history - is unique."

McCrum does not explain what he means by the term 'neutral' in the context of language. Near the end of the book, McCrum apparently contradicts the statement that language is neutral. McCrum writes, "Those who want to characterize Globish as a kind of benign virus that has worked its way into every corner of daily life must also acknowledge its imperial and colonial past." If language is neutral, why must I "acknowledge its imperial and colonial past"?

Sometimes, I do not understand what McCrum wants to say. In the examples that follow, I understand each word, but I do not understand the sentences:
* "At the interface of technology and global capitalism, the world's English responds to specific, local imperatives, as Jean-Paul Nerrière understood when he coined 'Globish' in 1995.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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Reviewed by C J Singh

Historically, in 1600 A.D., at the time of the founding of the East India Company, in London, languages of the Indo-European family were already native to most of the lands extending from Ireland to the border of Burma six thousand miles east, and had been so for thousands of years. At present, the Indo-European language family has more than twice the number of native speakers (46 percent) than the next largest family, the Sino-Tibetan (21 percent), which has always been confined to East Asia. These numbers suggest that one of the Indo-European languages was likely to become the common language of the globe. English won. (Historical ifs: Spanish, if Philip's Armada had succeeded; French, if Napolean; German, if Hitler; Russian, if Stalin.)

So, what is this "Globish"? The term was initially coined by Madhukar Gogate, an Indian linguist, to describe an artificial dialect he created and presented to the Simplified Spelling Society of U.K. in 1998. (Example: "She is fine" in "Globish" becomes "She iz faain.") Like many earlier spelling-reform attempts, his " Globish" didn't take root. In 2004, Jean-Paul Nerriere, a retired French marketer, trademarked the term "Globish" and later published a book, provocatively titling it as "DON'T SPEAK ENGLISH!: PARLEZ GLOBISH." Nerriere's "Globish" is a subset of 1500 words and limited syntactical patterns derived from Standard English. "Globish" has precedents in "Basic English," a subset of 850 words proposed by linguist and philosopher Charles Ogden in his book, "Basic English: A General Introduction with Rules and Grammar" published in 1930.
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