The Story of English in 100 words (Book Review)

David Crystal is one of my favourite linguists (is it possible to have a favourite linguist?) : he is erudite , enlightening and a lot of fun to read. He’s also quite prolific: last year he published the paperback edition of Begat: the King James Bible and the English Language as well as Internet Linguistics and 100 words. It seems unlikely that he ever gets time to ‘chillax’ (p. 251 of  his latest book).

The Story of English in 100 words  is a great book to dip into; it’s perfect for anyone who loves playing with words.  As the title suggests, Crystal has chosen one hundred words to illustrate the history of our language.  The book is organized chronologically, beginning with ‘roe’ (an Anglo-Saxon word) and ending with ‘Twittersphere.’  In  between, he covers a variety of linguistic sources, from Shakespeare to Frank Sinatra to Chicken Licken.

A great book to browse through – and David Crystal writes so entertainingly that  it’s easy to forget just how much you’re learning about language. If only linguistics could always be as easy as this!

Nota bene: you can listen to Crystal talking about the history of English here (British Library podcast)


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