By Hook or by Crook

By Hook or by Crook

A Journey in Search of English

Book - 2007
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A delightfully discursive, Bill Bryson-esque and personal journey through the groves and the thickets of the English language, by our foremost scholar of the history and structure of the English language. David Crystal has been described (by the Times Higher Education Supplement) as a sort of 'latter day Dr Johnson', a populist linguist who has promoted the study of the English language in an academic and broadcasting career that has so far spanned 40 years and nearly 100 books. Now he has written an engaging travel book of more general appeal. Inspired by W. G. Sebald's 'The Rings of Saturn' and by Bill Bryson's books, he has combined personal reflections, historical allusions and traveller observations to create a mesmerising (and entertaining) narrative account of his encounters with the English language and its speakers throughout the world - from Bangor to Bombay and from Stratford to San Francisco. 'By Hook or by Crook' is an attempt to capture the exploratory, seductive, teasing, tantalising nature of language study. As such, it will appeal to the ever-growing market who like to be entertained as well as instructed.
Publisher: London : HarperPress, 2007.
ISBN: 9780007235575
Branch Call Number: 427 CRY
Characteristics: xv, 314 p. : ill., map


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quagga Aug 24, 2010

A linguistic travelogue. David Crystal muses about accents and dialects as well as the origins of place names, catch-phrases and idioms while meandering down the sideroads of Wales and western England. Where did the expressions 'by hook or by crook' and 'the living daylights' come from?

Crystal ranges farther afield when he discusses streets that have nicknames (as opposed to merely shortened versions of their names). He even explains the origin of the word 'nickname.' (In Old English, eke meant 'also.' Pronunciation of the expression an eke name - your 'other' name - changed over time, with the n of an transferring to the beginning of eke to make neke, and then the spelling changed to make the modern word.)

I'm a total language nerd, so I enjoyed this book. You gotta love a guy who gets excited about orthographic innovations, such as the use of middle capital letters within a proper name - CompuServe; eBay and BiblioCommons.

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