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Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language

3.28  ·  Rating details ·  116 ratings  ·  31 reviews
"Let there be light," "A fly in the ointment," "New wine in old bottles," "How are the mighty fallen," "The salt of the earth." All these everyday phrases owe their popularity to the King James Bible. Indeed, it is said that this astonishing Bible has contributed more to the color and grace of the English language than almost any other literary source.

In Begat, best-
Hardcover, 327 pages
Published November 5th 2010 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published September 23rd 2010)
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Daniel Wright
Having been impressed and intrigued by another of David Crystal's other works, and being quite interested in the influence of the Bible on Western culture generally, this book promised to be a fascinating intersection between the two. While it still did exactly what it said on the can, the lexical influence of the Bible in general and the King James Bible in particular are surprisingly limited. Far more influential - though Professor Crystal completely fails to note this - has been the KJB's ver ...more
Nov 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
My frustration with this book (a gift from my late husband) is reflected In the fact that it has taken me 33 months to finish. There are lots of interesting snippets (it might prove a useful source-book for the QI quiz show) but it is hard to see where it is leading until the Epilogue.

Structures as it is, the book raises more questions than it answers and the Epilogue confirms what the reader has been forced to suspect - that the King James Version of the Bible does not, from Crystal's analysis
George Shubin
Dec 26, 2010 rated it it was ok
I'm not sure who the target audience is. Perhaps a small group of etymologists would find some interesting information tucked away in each chapter, but I'm not sure.

The author surveys the Bible, chapter by chapter, and lists for the reader phrases that have entered into the English idiom, ofttimes apart from the public's awareness of its Biblical origins. Examples and modifications of each phrase or idea are provided, but that's about it. There is no interacting with or analysis of the Biblical
Dec 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A much lighter, quicker read than I'd expected. The approach is formulaic: here is a snippet from the Bible, here's how it has evolved, here's how we extend it. But that isn't really a problem for me - I was just fascinated by how many idioms were biblical in origin without me being aware of it!
Christopher Rush
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
So basically ... this is a chronicle of one weekend David Crystal spent online looking up references to Biblical phrases on the British Intrenet. Mr. Crystal pretends at the beginning it will be a survey of how the phrases of the KJV have influenced the language and thought patterns and (we naturally infer) life choices of the English-speaking members of the human race. Mr. Crystal cannot keep up the imposture long, however, and he knows it - almost immediately after stating his purported intent ...more
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: linguistics
Begone the Begat

One good phrase deserves another. The book is an expository catalog of common English idioms who's origins come from the King James Bible published in 1611.

The best that can be said of this quadracentennial tribute is that it's thorough. I enjoyed it for the first 40 pages or so, and was pleased with my own recognition rate of both original phrasing and Crystal's found variations thanks to having a high school teacher who lured us on Northrop Frye and a misspent y
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Entertaining and learned survey of the linguistic influence of the King James Bible, published in 2011 to mark its 500th anniversary. It's already showing its age a little via phrases that are passing into recent history: "netizen", "Obama and Osama"; but recent enough to document the reawakening and spread of biblical language, when used in an election speech for example, via social media.

Sequential chapters for the Old Testament are complemented by thematic studies of the often-dup
May 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
Two hundred fifty-seven. That's how many idioms Mr. Crystal has identified as coming into common use in the English language expressly because of the King James Version of the Bible. The “skin of one's teeth,” “fire and brimstone,” “there's nothing new under the sun,” even “be very afraid” all have their roots in the KJV, arguably the most influential book ever published.

In coming up with the number two hundred fifty-seven, Mr. Crystal makes a distinction between idioms, which have g
Jennifer (JC-S)
Apr 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: librarybooks
The King James Bible and the English Language

It’s been 400 years since the King James Bible was published in 1611, and it is often referred to as a source of great influence on the English language. Consider these commonly used phrases: ‘A fly in the ointment’, ’How are the mighty fallen’, ‘Let there be light’, ‘New wine in old bottles ‘, ‘The salt of the earth’, and ‘The skin of one’s teeth’. Each of these phrases owes its popularity to the King James Bible.

But is it tru
Seth Heasley
Jun 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
The fact that it took me twelve weeks to finish David Crystal's ambitious Begat: The King James Bible & the English Language should not be taken as a criticism of the book. In fact, I see it as a result of two things: 1.) my other reading and 2.) short chapters.

With the Herculean goal of determining the impact of the King James Bible not on Western Culture or Western Law or anything like that, but on the English Language itself, Crystal in Begat takes a meandering stroll through
May 29, 2011 rated it liked it
On the fence about awarding this a "2" it's definitely more of a 2.5 than a full 3.

Like many books on narrow/obscure topics, one gets a bit weary from the repetition.
However, I picked up this book because I was interested in the topic of how our common language was influenced by this well-known (and fairly early, but not THE earliest) translation into the vernacular.

I don't know the author from a hole in the wall and I did not do any research on him, but I feel like
Doug Newell
Nov 30, 2016 rated it it was ok
The book sets out to see if the King James Bible is the most influential book in the English language. His answer ends up being yes and no. Yes, in that many idioms come from the KJV but no in that those same phrases are found in earlier translations or the Book of Common prayer so it's hard to say about a good many of the phrases discussed.

There is a formula for every chapter. Take a book or section of the King James, identify well known words or phrases, do a google search to see how these ph
Mar 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting. It examined how the King James bible has affected the English language, in an accessible, but fairly in-depth way. The author explained why some phrases are memorable and others are not. He also looked at how the meanings might have changed over the years, and how we "play" with phrases for comic and other effects. I learnt a lot about English. This review makes it sound a really boring book, but it wasn't, partly because of the author's sense of humour but also because the phr ...more
Sep 26, 2011 rated it did not like it
This seemed like an interesting subject, but the execution was boring. Each chapter tackles one or several biblical phrases by tracing its use amongst English speakers. I was surprised by continuous reference to Google search results as a source for phrase usage. There is really no analysis about the interaction between language and culture, it is merely a litany of examples of phrases which people apparently still use, the origins of which being traceable to the King Jams version of the Bible. ...more
Phil Mc
A coffee table book which, whilst interesting, falls into the 'linguistic tourism' category and in spite of the meticulous and systematic effort of one of the great modern writers in linguistics, it ends up being a little dull. Greater focus on the grammar amongst other more meaty linguistic areas would have made this more interesting but perhaps less accessible to the masses.

Crystal's work is impressive but, on this occasion, not effective in capturing my attention and imagination.
Oct 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
I got the impression that the author had queried the publisher, had his idea accepted, and then discovered he didn't have enough material. I'd say at least 30% of the book is discussing phrases that did NOT make it into the English language. And that's all the book discusses--I'd hoped to see material on how the King James Bible affected style. I still found it interesting, but not as interesting as I'd hoped.
Douglas Hayes
It's hard to know who this book would appeal to. It is a tracing of words and phrases found in the Bible into wider cultural use. Chapter by chapter David Crystal works his way through the Bible and identifies how biblical language has been taken up by society - usually without recognizing their biblical foundations. It's more of a book for those who are curious about such things than any kind of meaningful interaction with either the Bible or culture.
Oct 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: learning-stuff
I do not understand what this book is supposed to be.
Is it a book you reference?
Is it a book you read?
Really, it's neither. It has paragraphs that are unlike those in a reference book, but most of them are list-y paragraphs that are not at all readable. The organization is not explicit enough for it to be easily referenced, although the indices are friendly toward such endeavors.
A few gems are tucked away, but overall, it was not worth the work to get to them.
Jan 23, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Cute, light look at various phrases from different early versions of the Bible and how they have come to be used in present day. Crystal mostly organizes his book by Bible books, and examined Wycliffe's, Tyndale's, and the original King James' versions of the bible along with Google searches of phrasings to see how such phrases are used now. Good reference book.
Jun 06, 2011 rated it liked it
Informative in a casual way. Lots of little tidbits of information, but nothing practical. So I could completely relax while reading, it didn't demand anything of me except for a passing familiarity with the Bible, which I have.
Susan Hatch
Jul 30, 2011 rated it liked it
This was a fun book to read aloud as we drove. This is the first of 2 books I got from the library in honor the 400th anniversary of the King James version of the Bible. This book takes phrases from the KJV and tells how those phrases apply to modern life, other literature moments, etc.
Apr 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Not as easy a read as most of Crystal's books, but he covers a great deal of material. The book will, perhaps, be more useful to the scholar than the layperson.
Jun 13, 2011 rated it liked it
An interesting and enjoyable read. I was expecting more theory and technical arguments, and was slightly disappointed there wasn't more of that in the book. I
Mar 10, 2011 added it
Shelves: print, 2011, language
David Crystal googles Biblical phrases, so you don't have to!
Tim Pattison
Nov 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Very easy to read. Part reference book part popular non-fiction.
Jan 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Very interesting. Crystal knows his stuff and he can write. But I did fade a little two-thirds in.

Liked it.
Dec 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Interesting and academically rigorous study of the language of the Bible, though in terms of writing not particularly entertaining.
Jun 07, 2012 rated it did not like it
Not the interesting narrative I thought it might be, this is pretty much a single step up from a textbook, full of dry recitations and facts and figures.
Feb 16, 2011 rated it it was ok
Interesting material....sort of dull presentation.
Jan 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Great bedtime reading, a chapter at a time.
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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