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The Story of English in 100 Words [Hardcover]

David Crystal
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 27 2012

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.


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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.


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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
3.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars quirky and fun Aug. 11 2012
By Brian Maitland TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
You really don't have to work with words or be a linguist to love this book. David Crystal is not trying to give you the definitive guide to the history of English so unlike the PBS series "Story of English," don't be fooled by the title. Crystal has taken 100 random yet they do have some sense of purpose words in the English language and basically spelled out their history. He has common words in there as well as words that have long since fell out of favor.

Another great thing is he often adds as a final aside the numbers of times the word pops up if you Google it on the Web vs. some related term. Of course, that will date with time but it's still a cool way to add extra oomph to his entries.

Take it for what it is a fun coffee table book you can pick up and read in bits and bobs.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good book to read Dec 23 2013
By Salem TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book contains 100 words commonly used with their facts and/or where the words came from. Word such as Hello, twitter, et cetera...
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed July 11 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am very disappointed with this book....Marketing does ruin and fool people's minds. I thought this would be a story of English in
100 words, in other words, a precis. Instead, it is more like a dictionary. What a crying shame!!!
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  32 reviews
37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Logophiles will enjoy this book Jan. 8 2012
By Ralph Blumenau - Published on Amazon.com
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.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating topic, unfortunate prose May 9 2012
By sixquarters - Published on Amazon.com
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.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and enlightening book about about the history and development of the English language April 29 2012
By Ex-pat Brit - Published on Amazon.com
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). Words offer insights into how the structure of society (#65 lunch - with dinner ladies still serving school lunches in England) and progress in science (#75 DNA) and technology (#65 hello - which came about from the use of the telephone).

I am sure no-one reading this review would be uninterested in the subject, but it would make no sense to be disinterested (#54) - thanks to Dr. Johnson. This book is absolutely wicked (#25), and not merely OK (#71). LOL (#94). So don't dilly-dally (#56), and go and get your copy today!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting set of words Dec 2 2012
By rpv - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is an interesting set of words though I doubts any two authors if they are to state the story of English in 100 words will pick anything in common. The book has words from unfriend to twittersphere to street to some pre 10th century English words. It is a good conversation piece book and can be had on a coffee table or English buffs. There are some taboo words so be careful handing this to kids !
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun but not what I thought May 25 2012
By Wine Teacher - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a nice book, the kind that you may have in the bathroom as the chapters are short and most are fun. I was hoping that this would be a book that told the history of the English language in a more comprehensive way through the stories of 100 words. I don't think it is that. It is simply a collection of 100 stories on 100 English words but these stories do not form a comprehensive or even cohesive view of the English language. Fun stories nevertheless and mostly good reads.
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