Skip to Content

The Story of English in 100 Words by David Crystal []



The Story of English in 100 Words, by Welsh linguistics professor David Crystal, is a refreshing word book. With short easy to read chapters, it is a quick read, especially once you have caught Professor Crystal’s contagious enthusiasm.

I say The Story of English in 100 Words is refreshing in part because it is an easy enjoyable read, but also because it is different from other word books. Too many word books are based on anecdote and folk etymologies. You won’t many of those in The Story of English. Instead, you will find the stories of words and revealed by known facts. When did a word first appear? How was it spelled? How was it used at the time? How did its meaning change? What words were used similarly? There may be some guessing involved, but the answers to these questions are based on research, and we learn much about the English language in answering them.

Does this approach sound overly academic? Don’t worry. The examples are surprising and amusing, and the text is never bogged down in details. Most of the chapters are just a couple of pages, and include many illustrative examples. The examples are drawn from throughout the history of the language, from Old English, to new Internet coinages. This is a book about the history of English, and therefore a book about how English grows and changes. A very fun read!

Tagged: ,