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The Story of English

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  1,917 Ratings  ·  121 Reviews
Now revised, The Story of English is the first book to tell the whole story of the English language. Originally paired with a major PBS miniseries, this book presents a stimulating and comprehensive record of spoken and written English—from its Anglo-Saxon origins some two thousand years ago to the present day, when English is the dominant language of commerce and culture ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published December 31st 2002 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 1986)
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Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a graduate student, I took a class called The Development of Modern English. I believe my professor used this book as her inspiration even if it wasn't the text book for the course because the course followed this same order and covered most of the same information with additions reflecting the 25 or so years between the book's publication and the year I took the class. I understand why my professor used this book, if she did, because it's extremely thorough, well-written, and engaging.

As the
Oct 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: language, non-fiction
This was a thorough, informative and entertaining view of how the English language developed. It is still very current in its info. It is amazing to realize how very differently people speak this language, even in the USA.
Oct 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
For anyone who speaks English, or has tried to master its unruly spelling and grammar this book is a must. It explains WHY the English language is a linguistic hodgepodge as we know it today, and why we still use those crazy silent "gh"s as in laugh, taught, etc., and other assorted spellings and pronunciations that frustrate even native speakers. If you're interested in word origins & idioms, you'll learn about the many authors writing in English who "invented " thousands of new words over ...more
Erik Graff
Nov 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: English fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
I believe this was found amongst the books in the now-defunct Ennui Cafe on Sheridan and Lunt in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood. Since about half of the volumes there were my contributions I felt free to walk with it.

The Story of English came out in 1986 linked with a PBS/BBC 9-part series of the same title. I never saw the show, but my appreciation for the book didn't seem to depend on that. As someone who had never before read a book-length history of the language, I found the text to be c
Nov 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Finally finished trudging through this monstrosity, cover to cover. It's an excellent textbook, chock full of history, politics, and specific examples. History and linguistics come together! How exciting!

I especially loved the fact that specific words are used within the broader storyline. The author will be talking about how one people group moved and their vocab changed, and will throw in pronunciations of specific words and their meanings as proof of that. Just a sampling among many cases, bu
Feb 07, 2012 rated it really liked it

“There were few other joys. The Indians were hostile from the beginning. When they killed one of the colonists ‘wading in the water alone, almost naked, without any weapon saue onely a smal forked sticke, catching Crabs’, the situation became desperate. White was prevailed upon by the other colonists to return to England for help, mainly food and supplies.

What took place after White’s departure is a mystery. He was, as it happened, unable to return as quickly as he would have liked
David R.
Jan 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: unclassified, england
A fascinating survey of English, with special focus on variants in such places as Australia, Ireland, Canada, Jamaica, and India. McCrum satisfactorily explains how English moved from a marginal tongue to a world-class language of commerce in barely five centuries. What is more, he provides evidence for the marvelous inventive and absorbtive qualities of English that give some hints of its future.
Nov 22, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This was an interesting read, full of fun facts about my native tongue, and an easy-to-read style. It managed to touch on plenty of things regarding a topic that is, admittedly, a massive one; but sometimes left me wanting more.

The structure was open and intuitive, but prone to repetition, or perhaps a strange kind of literary déjà vu where repetition wasn't actually present.
Aug 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
One of my all time favorites!
A fascinating and thorough book. I also had the pleasure of watching the BBC series when it came out. The two together made a singularly enlightning experience.
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Goodreads Librari...: PAge numbers on The Story of English 5 20 Mar 23, 2015 04:38AM  
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Robert McCrum is an associate editor of the Observer. He was born and educated in Cambridge. For nearly 20 years he was editor-in-chief of the publishers Faber & Faber. He is the co-author of The Story of English (1986), and has written six novels. He was the literary editor of the Observer from 1996 to 2008, and has been a regular contributor to the Guardian since 1990
More about Robert McCrum...