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The Story of English in 100 Words
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The Story of English in 100 Words

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  1,261 Ratings  ·  234 Reviews
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 this 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
Hardcover, 260 pages
Published March 27th 2012 by St. Martin's Press (first published October 13th 2011)
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Khamael YES! How could they (author + publisher + editors involved) have overlooked such a significant mistake?!?

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Petra Eggs
I'm on a linguistics kick at the moment. They make very pleasant audiobooks not to mention that it is extremely difficult to write about The Great Vowel Shift and convey it's meaning in print. This book is fairly light, I enjoyed it partly because of the narrator (the author) who has a North Wales accent (I'm from South Wales).

Unlike the first book of this linguistics kick I read, The Secret Life of Words: English Words and Their Origins by Prof. Anne Curzan who said she blushed when saying "coc
Paul Bryant
Apr 06, 2012 Paul Bryant rated it really liked it
Shelves: english-language
I thought- hello, let's use the 100 words to review this wee book, sort of like the well-known sentence “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” which uses all the letters in the alphabet. It seemed mega doable, it could be so cute, but it very quickly it became a royal pain in the arse. I dilly-dallied, I couldn’t get going. I stared out my window for inspiration. There were no UFOs - again. I read the blurb on a shiny new paperback and thumbed through the ever-boring Sherwood Gazette. For ...more
Apr 08, 2013 Dan rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Enjoyable little book about the history of the English language and all of its many sources. An incredibly informative work for those who enjoy reading about the origin of words, and all those crazy little stories that have turned our language into what it is today.

As an added bonus, you suddenly have an infinite supply of little factoids to throw out about the history of various parts of English:

(these may count as spoilers?)

- In legal contracts, there are very commonly phrases with two words t
Sep 12, 2014 Jacklynn rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I definitely now know a lot of stuff that no one would want to hear in typical conversation.
Mar 29, 2017 Lauren rated it really liked it
Entertaining and light history of the English language in a listicle format. Crystal states upfront that these are his choice of 100 words, not THE 100 words, and I liked his open approach throughout the book. He isn't stodgy and dogmatic, he enjoys the evolution of the language and doesn't denigrate textspeak, instead showing that these shifts have happened dozens of times over the centuries. He moves through the book chronologically, working through Old English to modern slang.

He makes a spec
Mar 13, 2017 Elena rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I found this book highly entertaining, curiosity satisfying, full of surprises, clever and kind. Exactly how I order my reading. Sending it directly to my shelve of favorites and ordering one more book (will be my third) of David Crystal from my local library. Too bad there is no more books of his in audio format there (it takes me forever to go through a paper one).
Sep 03, 2016 sabisteb rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hörbücher, sachbuch
David Crystal dürfte neben John McWorther wohl einer der bekanntesten englischen Linguisten sein. In unterhaltsamer Art und Weise wird hier die diachrone Linguistic mit modernen Beispielen durchexerziert und auch nebenbei noch die synchrone englische Linguistik abgehandelt. Besonders die wordbuilding rules haben es ihm angetan. Einige der Texte kann man sicherlich gut im Unterricht einsetzen und die SuS die Regeln selber formulieren lassen anhand der Beispiele und sie anschließend Kreativ neue W ...more
Andrew Fish
Jan 15, 2013 Andrew Fish rated it it was amazing
OK - it was a bit of a system shock after reading The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language to read a similar book with no comedy mileage, but once you get over that, this book is as cleverly planned and incredibly informative.

The author has taken a series of words, each of which represents a development in the English language, such as the introduction of words from a particular source, through ways of manipulating existing words to create other
I wonder whether it was the format of the book that didn't quite gel with me but whilst I found the beginning quite interesting - with words such as "and" or "loaf" - I eventually tired of this sheer endless word listing. Perhaps this kind of approach is better suited to 'reading'.

I also find Crystal's insistence on talking about, and in fact using the word, "netspeak" strange but I'm willing to give him the benefit of doubt since it may actually get used in the UK. I've certainly never heard an
Dec 26, 2012 Julie rated it really liked it
Shelves: linguistics
If you are interested in where words come from and their age this is a great book. For example did you know that the word brass ( meaning money ) existed in the 16th century. I really enjoyed the discussion around where words originated. For example, What, originally was an exclamation used to get someones attention. And posh English folk used it until the early 20th century with 'Whatho'.Anyone who likes the Jeeves series of books will appreciate knowing the origin of this word.

The book gives
Apr 03, 2017 Yudhishtir rated it really liked it
It is surprising how indifferent we are about the words we use everyday. They are just as omnipresent as the air we breathe but we just utter them and keep moving.
Well , they too have origins , stories and death too at some point.
From my own thoughts , I have wondered if our prejudices about a stranger arise because of its impeccable closeness to the word strange.
I have also found it funny that there exist words like overestimate and underestimate when estimate itself by definition is a rough
Dan Ust
It might've been better to maybe do twenty words and go more in depth on each. Spending three to five minutes on a word makes this more like listening to a bunch of capsule summaries. Anyhow, I still learned something and hope it sticks.
Dan Smith
Jan 15, 2014 Dan Smith rated it it was ok
A disappointing and lacklustre book. It promises to tell the history of English in 100 words, and obviously I wasn't going to take that literally, but it could have made an effort. The chapters are enticingly in chronological order, and listed in the Contents along with their nature: a borrowed word, a portmanteau word, a scientific word, etc.

But the execution is plodding. For the most part, what we learn is prosaic and surface remarks. e.g. from a chapter about words of Indian derivation we lea
Oct 30, 2011 Bianca rated it it was amazing
Even if you do not have a thing for linguistics, this book will still be a nice read. All you need to have is a hunger for silly facts, because this book's got plenty - silly, interesting, tale-telling facts. Although this volume is written by David Crystal, an honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor and an expert when it comes to the English language, you don't have to be exceptionally highbrow to make sense of it.
The book does exactly what it says on the tin. Cryst
Athan Tolis
Mar 24, 2014 Athan Tolis rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education
I just LOVED reading this book.

A few years ago I read Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson and I enjoyed it thoroughly. But I bet that this tiny little tome will have a longer-lasting effect on my appreciation of the English language.

Not only is the author the consummate master of his topic, he's also head over heels in love with it. No exaggeration, you get the feeling he narrowed it down to 100 from his favorite 10,000 words. He weaves in the Celtic, the Anglo-Saxon, the Viking, the Latin and the Norm
Jan 14, 2013 Kristen rated it it was amazing
This is exactly the book I needed to read right now. I've been in a bit of a reading slump, so it was great to read a book that sucked me right in. I could not stop sharing all of the fascinating facts I was learning as I was reading. Did you know it wasn't until 1974 that billion meant the same thing to Britain as it did to the rest of the world? Before that, it meant a "million million" in Britain and a "thousand million" everywhere else. It's amazing to me that this is even possible. Or that ...more
Apr 02, 2013 Lucy rated it it was amazing
I love books on words and the history of English and this book features both. It uses Crystal's choice of 100 words to represent both themselves and also groups of words such as Music to show spelling variations in the past, Fopdoodle to represent lost words, Hello as a word influenced by technology, Gotcha for non-standard spelling, Dinkum for Australian words, Sudoku as a modern word borrowing (from Japan). The words are in order by their introduction but there is a Word Index in the back to h ...more
Oct 10, 2012 Dale rated it really liked it
English major nerds, holla! This a great overview of how the English language developed and continues to develop from the earliest identifying runes carved into objects to the ephemeral electron of our interwebs age. 100 different words were selected to illustrate and encapsulate certain milestones and trends in the evolution of English in a page or two of meditation, but the book also touches on additional verbal sand-outs to flesh out every idea. Terrific fun if you have anyinterest at all in ...more
Mar 22, 2012 Tori rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a perfect book to skim through. Crystal is a linguistics expert and has chosen 100 English words that have shaped our speech and language. His entries are fairly brief, which makes it easy to pick and choose which words are most interesting. I learned that the rule that "and" should never begin a sentence was almost arbitrarily decided on in the 19th century. Lawyers in the middle ages contended with Latin, French and English. Legally, which language should they use? they solved the pro ...more
Jun 18, 2015 Erin rated it really liked it
Shelves: language
A very enjoyable book! It has lots of great factoids to impress your friends, such as the origin of the name "Cloud Cuckoo Land" (the creators of the Lego Movie did not make it up!), why we have phrases like "cease and desist" with both words meaning essentially the same thing, and that "escalator" started life as a brand name. You get a general sense of some of the history of English, particularly its modern history, but this book is primarily a word-book. After reading this, I have a greater a ...more
Aug 11, 2012 Marie rated it it was amazing
It's delightful--like going through a really well-curated history museum for English words. There's a short overview of English-language history at the beginning, which can be read or skipped as the reader prefers. Each section thereafter is a word-exhibit showcasing some word type, influence, or development in English. It's roughly chronological in organization but could be browsed in almost any order. Very entertaining for word buffs. Also, any book that has "muggle" as its representative fict ...more
May 10, 2012 Donna rated it really liked it
I love reading about the history of words and I listened to a college course on the history of English and found that fascinating. This book is a very fun combination of those two things. Crystal uses the history of specific words to illustrate changes that have occurred in the English language. It's a very entertaining read with each word being covered in 2-3 pages. Highly recommended for any word lover.
Feb 02, 2016 Erikka rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2016
This was a fun exploration of English through a careful selection of words in order of their entry into the language (many of which are representative of a larger concept that changed the language significantly). It's a chronological microcosm of our mother tongue. There were a few mistakes and a few words with a bit too much detail, but this guy is in essence the king of English (he has an OBE for his contributions to the study of English), so I'll forgive him a few errors.
John Frankham
Mar 08, 2016 John Frankham rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
An entertaining and instructive look at a raft of English words through the ages, from loaf, out, street, and merry from before the Norman Conquest, to DNA, garage, blurb, chill, and twitters here from recent times. The enthusiasm for books in 100 bites makes for easy reading but takes away a more difficult but more informative and satisfying stance. This book is no exception. Good but could have been much better.
Jul 17, 2012 Deborah rated it really liked it
An interesting concept developed in a very readable way. I liked the structure of each essay (the writing teacher in me noticed some patterns), but more than that I liked the voice: interesting tidbits about the English language told by someone who knows a lot and really enjoys the subject. It was clear Crystal was having fun. As a consequence, the reader does, too.
May 30, 2012 Nikki rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A fun format for a book on language. It doesn't tell me that much that I didn't know, but it was fun to flip through anyway, and it gives the truth behind a couple of myths (like the origins of the word "okay"). Some of it's pretty amusing, too.
Aug 26, 2016 Alvin rated it liked it
A few entries were fascinating, most were interesting, and a few seemed like filler. Definitely suitable for reading on the bus or as a mental palate cleanser between longer reads.
Excellent book. Full of lots of useful and useless pieces of information. Understanding where the term OK comes from is my favourite.
Mar 08, 2014 Mary rated it it was amazing
Shelves: useful, audio-books
Interesting & extremely entertaining audio book. Perfect for long drives
Varvara Bondarenko
Jun 09, 2017 Varvara Bondarenko rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this book. It threw light on many questions I had about English vocabulary. I especially liked that reading this book not only was I able to learn about 100+ interesting words but also understand the language through history. I also loved that the author was talking about different 'Englishes' and mentioned regional dialects.
Anyway, I would recommend this book for anyone interested in English language, no matter if it's your native language or not.
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David Crystal works from his home in Holyhead, North Wales, as a writer, editor, lecturer, and broadcaster. Born in Lisburn, Northern Ireland in 1941, he spent his early years in Holyhead. His family moved to Liverpool in 1951, and he received his secondary schooling at St Mary's College. He read English at University College London (1959-62), specialised in English language studies, did some rese ...more
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