David Crystal on the English language in 100 words

David Crystal 'The Story of English in 100 Words'
'The Story of English in 100 Words' by David Crystal
Book cover courtesy of publisher

David Crystal, an expert on the English language, leads readers through a history of our vernacular in his latest book, "The Story of English in 100 Words." His book was Kerri's book Pick of the Week.

Crystal will join The Daily Circuit Wednesday to discuss his book.

"English has been this vacuum cleaner of a language, because of its history meeting up with the Romans and then the Danes, the Vikings and then the French and then the Renaissance with all the Latin and Greek and Hebrew in the background," Crystal told NPR. "Every language that English has come into contact with, it's pinched some of the words -- thousands and thousands of words in many cases. And something like 600 languages have loaned or given words to English over the past 1,000 years."

Words are more than linguistic objects, Crystal wrote in The Telegraph.

"They are windows into the world of those who use them," he wrote. "Part of the challenge, then, is to find words that best give us a real insight into social history. For the Anglo-Saxons, my choice included loaf and mead, street and lea. For the medieval period, swain and pork, dame and royal. For the time of Shakespeare and the King James Bible, alphabet and dialect, shibboleth and potato. For the next centuries, gazette and fopdoodle, lunch and tea. And so to modern times, with jazz and Watergate, PC and apps, LOL and unfriend. They make interesting bedfellows."

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