The Story of English in 100 Words

The Story of English in 100 Words, by David Crystal

I've been listening to an excellent podcast, the History of English, which I highly recommend to language nerds.  It starts with a whole series on Indo-European roots and language.  I'm only in the early 20s of the episodes (so far about 100), and we haven't gotten to Old English yet.  It's a lot of fun.

So I thought it would be a good time to take this book off my TBR shelf and indulge in a little fun etymology.  And indeed it was fun!  Crystal goes chronologically, which is nice, starting about 1500 years ago with a runic inscription.  His words are chosen not just for their individual interest, but also for what they illustrate about the English language, so "street" talks about Latin loan-words generally, and "gaggle" is about the fun of collective nouns.*

The last ten or so words are from my lifetime and include app, LOL, and sudoku, so not quite as interesting to my mind.  But the title "word of the 20th century" goes to jazz, which I think is a good choice!

 This is a fun, casual read that is still packed with good information.  It's making the rounds among my family members, so I guess my daughter gets it next!

*a rash of dermatologists!


  1. This sounds fun -- what a great way to explore the English language.


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