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The Story of English in 100 Words

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  822 ratings  ·  167 reviews
The world'sforemost expert on the English language takes us on an entertaining and eye-opening tour ofthe history of our vernacularthrough the ages.

In The Story of English in 100 Words, an entertaining history of the world’s most ubiquitous language, David Crystal draws onone hundred words that best illustrate the huge variety of sources, influences and events that have he
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ebook, 288 pages
Published March 27th 2012 by St. Martin's Press (first published October 13th 2011)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,997)
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Paul Bryant
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
Dan ⛺
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
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Andrew Fish
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
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Abdulla Al Muhairi
الكتاب كان مفاجأة رائعة، هو قاموس صغير لمئة كلمة من الإنجليزية وأصول هذه الكلمات وتاريخها، والكتاب يشمل كلمات من الإنجليزية القديمة والوسطى والحديثة حتى أيامنا هذه، بل فيه كلمات متعلقة بالتقنية وتعطي صورة لمؤلف يعرف حقاً آخر تطورات اللغة حتى مع تقدم سنه.

إن كنت تحب اللغة والكلمات فهذا كتاب لك، أعجبني الكتاب لدرجة أنني سأبقيه في مكتبتي بعد أن ظننت أنني سأتخلص منه بعد قرائته مباشرة، النقطة الثانية الكتاب عرفني بمؤلف يستحق أن أقرأ له باقي كتبه.
Jacklynn
I definitely now know a lot of stuff that no one would want to hear in typical conversation.
Muphyn
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
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Kristen
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
Bianca
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
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Julie
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
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Tori
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
Marie
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
Athan Tolis
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
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Donna
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.
Deborah
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.
Rebecca
Taking 100 words as examples of how English has evolved and how it has been and is being used, Crystal covers the whole history of the English language chronologically. For example, he'll take one word--such as UFO--and use it as an example of acronyms turning into words, and branch out into other examples with many different shadings of the trend.

I found this absolutely fascinating, and I enjoyed the structure of the 100 words, particularly since he really didn't stick to just 100--each represe
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Holly

David Crystal, many would argue, is the UK’s most prestigious expert on the English Language. I can’t say I have read enough of his books to be able to give a fair opinion on his writing but I can say that the ones that I have read I have enjoyed.

There was an aspect of this book that some might view as positive or a negative: the book was made up of 100 chapters dedicated to 100 words in the English Language, the histories of which Crystal feels are worth discussing. (The answer is no to those w
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Nikki
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.
Dan Smith
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
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Megan
Yet another phenomenal book from David Crystal. His engaging style guides you on a journey through the English language, from its earlist roots to its modern forms. Along the way you learn tidbits and curios about indivitual words, meanings, word families, grammar and history. And he dubunks a few myths, such as why starting a sentence with 'and' is perfectly acceptable and has a very long tradition.

His explorations do not stop with standard English. He's got dialect, pidgin, idioms and complet
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Katy Noyes
I finished a few days ago and already I want to reread this. It was a great audio read. Short chapters and so much of interest but very hard to absorb it all! So I think I'll want a paper copy next time.

This is just brilliant if you're interested in words and language, as I am on a less-than-scholarly level.

Some fascinating words are discussed, their history and uses and related words. From 'hello' to 'dude' and 'robot' all the way to a particular 'c' word, absolutely fascinating history. I like
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Richard
Excellent book. Full of lots of useful and useless pieces of information. Understanding where the term OK comes from is my favourite.
Anne
After a recent reminder of how much I enjoyed another of the author's books (Spell It Out) I thought this would be perfect for a little easy beginning of the year non-fiction reading. And, yay! it absolutely delivered. The author not only included tons of intriguing words (well, words with intriguing histories) but he also blew me away with the depth of his research. I pretty much had a nerdgasm when I read the entry for "matrix" (yeah, he totally included a Doctor Who reference...from 1976 *sig ...more
Mary
Interesting & extremely entertaining audio book. Perfect for long drives
Rea
Very interesting look at our language and how it has evolved, focused around 100 words introduced in chronological order of their appearance in the English language.

Maybe a trivial point, but one of the most interesting things mentioned for me was that since the start of the new millenium, there have been very few loan words adopted into the language. Considering that English is usually very open to just adopting the local term for the thing (karaoke, fjord, kayak, etc.), it came as a surprise t
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Keli
Crystal attempted to go for breadth and depth with this book, but he missed the mark on both. Some of the entries were very interesting, and he illustrated a few concepts of the linguistics of English. But in many of the entries, I had no idea how they fit into the structure of the language as a whole. I also had a bit of difficulty connecting because it was written from a very British point of view with small nods to the U.S. and Australia. Therefore, I had to take his word for it when he state ...more
Nikhil Krishnaswamy
This is exactly what it says on the tin: a history of the English language using 100 different words, from "roe" to "twittersphere," as examples of how English vocabulary has changed throughout its recorded history.

For what it is, a history of vocabulary, it's very good. Crystal details occurrences like borrowing and semantic drift to explain where the 100 chosen words (and some related terms) come from, and there are a number of interesting facts provided along the way. Did you know that "hey,"
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Jacqueline
Fun popular linguistics tour of the history of the English language from early Angles/Saxons/Jutes/Picts to modern innovations, told by examining the etymology and context of 100 individual words - from 'loaf' to 'twittersphere' - showcasing the amazing adaptability of the language. English hasn't just spread to all parts of the globe; it has also incorporated vocabulary from all around the world.

Also, who knew that 'grammar' is related to 'glamour'?
Nathan
Very interesting in parts, and I enjoyed David's conversational tone and ability to draw and a vast array of references and ability to make linguistic connections over centuries. However 50 words probably would have been enough for me, or perhaps a little more info on the real-world history that supported the development of the language. There were a good chunk of words that didn't have an interesting story, no matter how he tried to drag them out and connect them with similar ones.

It's a close
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Kirsti
Jan 22, 2014 Kirsti rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kirsti by: Mental Floss
What I learned:

* English is a vacuum-cleaner language because it sucks up lots of foreign words. Other languages, such as French and Icelandic, don't do this because their speakers try to keep them pure.

* English is a Germanic language, but 80% of its vocabulary is not Germanic.

* To linguists, a triplet is a group of words with the same meaning but derived from different languages. Example: fire (Germanic), flame (French), conflagration (Latin). English speakers use these words in different cont
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Mark
Entertaining and erudite discussion of the history of 100 English words. Very good on American vs Britishisms and much related interesting history - early American history under "skunk", the peculiar addition of the letter b to "debt" in the 16th century, the various theories for the origin of "OK",etc. One quibble - under Yiddishisms he mentions the expression Joe Schmoe, but does not state what Schmoe is a euphemism for.
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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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