From Publishers Weekly
The latest contribution from prolific linguist Crystal (The Stories of English) offers a cornucopia of interesting takes on "the universe of words." Crystal briefly visits many aspects of language: baby names, place names, how languages change, how to estimate the size of your vocabulary and the interaction between languages. He also touches on the history of words and how language changes with interesting, straightforward explanations that belie the author's enormous knowledge of lexicology, but represent well his intense, personal love for it: "Everyone has their own linguistic story to tell ... this book is part of my story, a cross-section of my lexical autobiography." Witty literary references are sprinkled throughout the book, along with some surprisingly vulgar sections; even the table of contents and the index are fascinating linguistic exercises. Conversational but easy to reference, this text will be useful to any semi-serious practitioner of the English language.
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In 33 chapters, prolific professor Crystal celebrates words, covering their form, meaning, and evolution. Arguing that we are all, in fact, wordsmiths, Crystal makes his point by noting that their own vocabularies are far larger than most people realize. Although most people would guess that they use from 5,000 to 20,000 words, it is unusual to find anyone with an active vocabulary of less than 35,000 words, according to Crystal. He goes on to describe how we learn new words, the creation of dictionaries, the origins of words, and the borrowings from foreign languages (more than 350) that form part of the modern English vocabulary. Other chapters cover spelling, pronunciation, dialect, slang, and word games and wordplay. A final section, "Becoming a Word Detective," is a collection of online and print sources on etymology, among other topics. Crystal covers a lot of ground in short, well-paced chapters that never fail to offer something for word lovers--a 2004 survey, for example, found that mother
topped the list of the most beautiful words in the English language. Joanne WilkinsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved