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By Hook Or By Crook: A Journey In Search Of English

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  227 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
A personal journey through the groves and thickets of the English language, this title combines personal reflections, historical allusions and travel observations to create a mesmerising account of David Crystal's encounters with the language throughout the world. Accessible, highly engaging and in a style similiar to Bill Bryson, 'By Hook or By Crook' will not only appeal ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published January 1st 2007)
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Jen Padgett Bohle
Apr 17, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: contestants on Jeopardy anticipating an entire show consisting of Linguistics questions
I learned a valuable lesson from this pitiful,unfortunate, and ghastly book: being an esteemed linguist who has studied all varieties of the English language does not equate to being an author who can use it to inform and entertain a general audience. The sentences were choppy and simplistic to the extent that they became a distraction. Either Crystal patronizes his readers and believes they're wholly incapable of reading complex, or even compound, sentences about the varieties of the English la ...more
Heather Shaw
Nov 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
By Crystal’s own admission, By Hook or by Crook is a linguistic travelogue. Normally a writer of textbooks and dictionaries—utterly self-contained literary worlds—this book takes a meandering path through the Welsh countryside while observing and commenting on the road signs leading to contemporary standard English.

Welsh itself is enough to make one wonder about maps and ancestry. Take the name of this rail stop between Chester and Holyhead: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyndrobwll-llantysiliogogo
Jan 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A truly enjoyable read. It wanders and rambles it's way around Wales and wider and roams all around the world. I have never enjoyed looking into the origin of names and accents and speech patterns so much. Almost got me excite about linguistics, and that is because the author David Crystal is obviously brimming with passion for his chosen field.
In the chapter Book-Browser Syndrome he writes "In another Francis Edward catalogue, in the travel section, I encountered one of the best travel titles e
Jessica Howard
This book wasn't quite what I was expecting. It was one of the most odd language books I've ever write--Crystal explains in the foreword that it was "stream of consciousness linguistics" and that's probably the best way to describe it. Ostensibly it covers a few days as he travels through Wales and Warwickshire, ruminating on the accents of those he meets and the place names of the towns he drives through, but he also tells stories about language happenings from as long ago as the 1960s, in plac ...more
The thesis of this book can be best summed up as "Here are some things I've thought, learned, and/or observed about language." Though some of them are interesting, the scattered nature of the narrative means the book is doing a remarkably accurate impression of the person you get seated next to at a dinner party who is only capable of conversing about one topic and doesn't care what your thoughts are on the matter. Disappointing.

OH! And he also took a dig at TV. Why do people insist on putting d
I have this on my bedside table & am reading it slowly & savoring it. Makes me want to (a) go back to Wales and (b) take a linguistics course. Lovely writer!
Stephen Hayes
Feb 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: our-books, travel, society
A discursive linguistic and geographical ramble through Wales, and bits of England bordering on Wales, with occasional excursions to other parts of the world.

I really enjoyed it as a bit of bed-time reading on nights when I wasn't too tired, which is why it took me a long time to get through it. But then I have worked as a proofreader and editor, and so there is a sense in which words are my business. Others might not have the same interest in such things.

I found some bits more interesting tha
Jun 17, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I saw this recently released book on sale at the University Bookstore a week or so back, I nearly jumped up and down with excitement. (“Happy! Happy! Joy! Joy!” as Ren and Stimpy would gleefully sing.) Crystal, a Brit-born linguist and specialist on the English language, has fast become my favorite verbivore since I discovered his book "Words, Words, Words" as an Amazon bargain. Although I did try shortly thereafter his rather staid "How Language Works" – a tome of a book that doesn’t reall ...more
Sep 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fic
When I first picked up this book, I expected it to be a history of English, a record of the way the language started out and how it evolved into what we speak now. And there is some of that--and those parts are a great deal more fascinating than I would have expected them to be--but for the most part, it is a "linguistic travelogue," as it says on the front flap. A renowned linguist travels the world and reports his encounters with English. However interesting that might sound to you, I promise ...more
Dec 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A hugely entertaining read. If you love words, etymology, philology, linguistics, phonetics, whatever, you'll love this book. The author travels through Wales and its borderlands with England, to Stratford and Lichfield, to India and to San Francisco, investigating accents, dialects, place names and history. The serendipity of the author's reflections on Shakespeare, Johnson, etc., together with the randomness of his diversions, makes this a fascinating and hugely enjoyable journey.
Apr 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Read it with map of Great Britain in hand. Crystal would be my perfect man if only he would shave his long beard. Love, love, love the funny linguists.
And now I know where they filmed "The Prisoner" t.v. series and I must go there.
Sadly I have finished, didn't want to say goodbye. Now plan to read all of Crystal's books.
Bruno de Maremma
Jan 10, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: language, linguistics
What a delightful walk through the garden of English with a master guide. I thoroughly enjoyed it. His narrative style reminded me of a fine jazz instrumentalist weaving back to a theme and then improvising on it again.
Dec 12, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a sucker for clever books about words and travel books about Great Britain, and this one's both. Also, Crystal quotes HV Morton in the preface, which won me over quickly. This book is fun and funny and light, and I am very glad Megan spotted it at the library and told me to read it.
Jan 15, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
Worked for me as a travel narrative, but the linguistics aspect got bogged down in places I'm afraid.
Nov 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A linguist must!
Nathan Albright
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: challenge2017
As someone who greatly enjoys reading about the origins and the tortured history of the English language [1] and languages in general, I found this book to be delightful if somewhat intentionally scattered.  Being a somewhat scatter-brained person myself, I can hardly object to a book that is delightfully random, though.  To be sure, this author does not take a different approach to language than most others in the field--he is describing language as it is or was, and not as it should be, and he ...more
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, okay. I saw this book for a buck at the county library, and I was immediately interested. As an ELL (English Language Learner) teacher of Social Studies, I thought it would be an interesting read about how and why American English looks and sounds like it does.
Had I read the jacket cover I would have known not to expect that.
David Crystal is a learned linguistic expert, and his "Journey in Search of English" is a journey IN ENGLAND. It is no less enlightening or engaging; in fact it was prof
Aug 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
I was quite disappointed with the book. The author obviously possesses a wealth of knowledge but could not communicate it to me effectively. The information was passed to me in a very, oh, by the way, or did you know that, way. The chapter describing the Hay literary festival was very interesting but I am surprised that one would try to find the roots of English language and idiom by starting in Wales. The origins of place names was well presented when it occurred but could not serve to keep my ...more
Apr 07, 2008 rated it liked it
The author is obviously very passionate about language, and that passion comes through in his writing. However, the subject is very, very dry (and I've read etymology books before). A British Travelouge where he goes from town to town, discussing the minute differences caused by a few miles, with some random history tidbits thrown in (especially if it's a tidbit related to Shakespeare or Johnson) and an occasional digression such as to San Francisco. It was however excellent reading for going to ...more
Chris Herdt
Picked this up on Groundhog's Day on discount at the corner bookstore. I have another David Crystal book that I like quite a bit, so I hope this one is comparable.

Just flipping through I found an interesting tidbit that spelling reformers in the 15th and 16th centuries latched onto the "o" in "people" (which had been spelled variously as "peple," "pepule," "pepille," "pepyll," and "pople") to remind people of the Latin "populum."
Dec 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: culture-history
Fun for perusing the English language. Its a relaxing book that you need to kind of flow through until you hit a nugget like the fact that back in 1799 parrot voices where the last record of an extinct civilization. After being destroyed by a rival tribe everything about the Maypure tribe of Venezuela was lost but the scattered fragments of their dialect which a linguist by the name of Alexander von Humbolt saved with phonetic transcriptions of the sayings of the their pet parrots.
Aug 17, 2009 rated it liked it
I have read David Crystal before; he is a linguist with a highly readable style that I enjoy. This book is a combination of travelogue and language trivia. Since the travelogue is mostly Wales, with some England and a smattering of some few other places such as San Francisco, and all these topics/locations interest me, I found it a pleasant diversion, and pleasant diversions are deceptively difficult come by.
Aug 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, dnf
If you really love the English language, it is interesting, in a "here are random facts about language presented in no discernable order" sort of way. Unfortunately, I didn't find it interesting enough to overcome the really strange smell of my particular library-book-sale copy. I won't be going out of my way to find a deodorized copy to finish, either.
Ed Erwin
Dec 27, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: linguistics
Very rambling. There is little overall structure, the author just follows his trains of thought wherever they lead. They pass through interesting places, but I would have enjoyed a more focused discussion of a smaller number of topics. He has written other more conventionally-structured books, and I reccommend those instead.

David Crystal is a very smart man who has a lot of insightful linguistic tidbits to share. I think this book may have been just a bit too rambly. He hardly gives himself time to finish one anecdote before hop-skip-flitting along to the next. It fits, because language is equally helter-skelter, but it makes for a disjointed read.
Jul 11, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, language
This was indeed "A journey in search of English." David Crystal takes us on a rambling trip around the countryside near the Welsh/English border, riffing on history, linguistics, popular culture, and whatever else pops into his head. It's fascinating and fun. I'm glad I'll never have to travel with him, though - with all the stories he has to tell, we wouldn't get anywhere.
Amanda Witt
A great view of the author's trip around England and Wales, encompassing events like the Hays book festival and how different people in the same areas can have the same or different accents, which is often related back to their childhood areas.
Pavandeep Singh
Feb 16, 2010 rated it liked it
Though not as daring as I expected it to be, this book really is for the person that has any interest at all in language and its varieties and its many variants. Some ideas I disagreed wholeheartedly, due to my own vested interest in this subject matter, but it is a good subjective read.
Jul 25, 2011 rated it liked it
2010- This is almost like a Bill Bryson-type journey around England, except its main focus is language. The author writes in an easily accessible style that the typical person can understand. I will definitely check out more books by this author, as I learned quite a bit!
Nur Amani Yusoff
Dec 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Glad that I've found this book by chance at a local book fair, out of all the books that I bought that day, this is a gem, it brings me to the other published works of Prof. David Crystal. I've added quite a number of his other books here at GR to my TBR pile.

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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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