Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language

Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language

by David Crystal
     
 

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"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

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Overview

"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-selling language expert David Crystal offers a stimulating tour of the verbal richness and incredible reach of the King James Bible. How can a work published in 1611 have had such a lasting influence on the language? To answer this question, Crystal offers fascinating discussions of phrases such as "The skin of one's teeth" or "Out of the mouth of babes," tracing how these memorable lines have found independent life in the work of poets, playwrights, novelists, politicians, and journalists, and how more recently they have been taken up with enthusiasm by advertisers, Hollywood, and hip-hop. He shows, for instance, how "Let there be light" has resurfaced as "Let there be lite," the title of a diet cookbook, and "Let there be flight," the title of an article about airport delays. Along the way, Crystal reminds us that the King James Bible owes much to earlier translations, notably those by Wycliffe in the fourteenth century and Tyndale in the sixteenth. But he also underscores crucial revisions made by King James's team of translators, contrasting the memorable "Am I my brother's keeper" with Wycliffe's "Am I the keeper of my brother."

Language lovers and students of the Bible will be equally enthralled by Begat and its engaging look at the intersection of religion and literature.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Its reach is impressive."—Washington Post

"Crystal does a great job of showing how the King James Bible played an essential role in 'begetting' the English language. Highly recommended."—Studies in Scripture

"Crystal is rightly known as a highly engaging author and one of the few linguists with a true talent for explaining highly abstract subject matter in a way that is comprehensible and enjoyable for a general readership...his approach is systematic and well chronicled."—Linguist List

Publishers Weekly
Next year marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Version of the Bible. Begat joins the volumes that draw attention to the unparalleled influence of the KJV on English language and literature. Crystal, an honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor, U.K. and the author of several books including The Fight for English, undertook to search the entire KJV for every idiom (as distinct from quotations) that has become part of modern English vernacular. This book is the result of that quest. With a brief introduction and an epilogue that specifically answers the quantitative question, "How many did he find?" (answer: 257), the bulk of the book is devoted to the individual expressions and how they appear in modern popular culture. This makes for the kind of eclectic yet entertaining reading that one might tuck into a bathroom book basket. Readers can dip into the book anywhere and discover humorous and bizarre uses of biblical idioms alongside predictably sober and pious usages. An index of expressions directs readers to relevant pages. (Dec.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199695188
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
09/15/2011
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
735,652
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

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